Fabulous Friday: Pineapple Sage In Bloom

~

A hummingbird came zooming across my shoulder just as I began watering in the front garden this morning.  It went first to the nearest Canna blossoms, towering now 8′ or more.  But then, it zoomed straight down to the bright lipstick-red blossoms of our pineapple sage, just opening for the first time this morning.

The little hummer flitted from blossom to blossom, drinking deeply from each long, tubular flower.  Pineapple sage is a great favorite of hummingbirds, and gives that extra boost of energy before they leave for their migration.

~

Pineapple sage, Salvia elegans, grows together with a small Buddleia in the heart of our butterfly and hummingbird garden.  It began blooming today, immediately attracting our resident hummingbirds to taste its nectar.

~

Pineapple sage, Salvia elegans, has grown easier to find at spring plant sales in our area.  It is often offered in small pots, right among the other herbs.  It is easy to grow in full to partial sun, and quickly grows from a small start to a nice sized herbaceous ‘shrub.’  Other than keeping it watered during drought, and pinching it back from time to time to encourage bushiness, it needs little care.

A native of Central America and Mexico, pineapple sage loves heat and humidity.  But it is the shorter days which signal it to begin blooming.

It’s best season is autumn, and it will cover itself in flowers from now until frost.  We are fortunate that pineapple sage tends to return in our garden.  Although it is listed as hardy to Zone 8, it will survive our winter if its roots are deep and well established.  A little mulch helps it survive through winter.

~

~

Like so many herbs, pineapple sage is easy to propagate from stem cuttings or by division.  In the spring, you often can pull a rooted stem, left from the previous season, away from the crown and plant it elsewhere to help this clumping plant spread more quickly.  But we’ve never had a pineapple sage ‘run’ or grow out of control.  It is far better behaved than the mints!

Edible, the foliage has a wonderful fruity fragrance all season.  It is beautiful in fall arrangements and mixed container gardens.  In containers, it might crowd out other plants over the long summer season.  But rooted cuttings or small starter plants would be beautiful in pots newly refreshed for fall.

~

Pineapple sage in a vase with Mexican blue sage, Artemisia and Hibiscus acetosella, October 2015.

~

Salvia elegans has been identified as one of the top three favorite flowers  hummingbirds choose for feeding, in a study done in Central Mexico.  It’s long, tubular flowers just invite a hummingbird’s beak!  And since the flowers are clustered close together, it takes little effort to move from one to the next.

Our hummingbirds are happily darting about the garden this week, enjoying the Lantana, Verbena, ginger lily, Canna, and now also the pineapple sage, just coming into bloom.  They visit us as we sit on the deck and as we water and work among the plants.

It is fabulous to see fall’s brightest flowers blooming at last!

~

Pineapple sage lights up our garden in October 2014.

~

Woodland Gnome 2017

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious,

Let’s infect one another!

~

Flowers  our hummingbirds enjoy visiting:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Fabulous Friday: Pollinators

~

We love hearing the low hum of bees, feeling their subtle movements, as we move about our garden.  We admire the focused attention they give to each blossom in their relentless search for nectar and honey.

~

~

Butterflies skim above the shrubs, silently landing on one flower, and then another, as they uncurl their straw-like tongues to sip sunwarmed nectar.  They drink intently, their bright wings opening and closing lazily, ready to instantly lift off if startled.

~

~

Our garden hosts hundreds of species.  Some we see, others we never notice.  I’ll always remember the late summer evening we returned home well after dark.  As we pulled into our drive, we were curious about the tiny, glowing animals flying around from flower to flower among our stand of ginger lilies.  They looked like tiny fairies.  We stopped and watched them flit and hover, sip and rest in a beautifully choreographed nocturnal dance.

Finally, I got out of the car and crept closer to see if I could identify these night time pollinators.  They were hummingbirds, enjoying the cool darkness as they gorged on sweet ginger lily nectar.

~

Butterfly Ginger Lily

~

Gardeners curate their gardens in many ways, for many different purposes.  Depending on where we live, we work within the constraints of our space, our climate, our free time, our environment and maybe even our community’s covenants.  Most of us remain aware of our neighbors, and what they expect to see when they look across the street at our home.

Which may be why so many homeowners maintain large, well kept lawns and neat foundation plantings.  Neighborhoods across the United States strive to ‘keep up appearances’ with neatly clipped front yards.  It seems easiest to plant slow growing evergreen shrubs, a few trees, and then hire a lawn care service to take care of it for us.

~

~

But these neatly maintained lawns and low maintenance shrubs do little to support our pollinators and other wildlife.  They are sterile, and often toxic.  The same chemicals which maintain our lawns pollute the nearby waterways and kill beneficial insects, as well as those we might want to target.  Without insects, birds lose their main source of protein and calcium.

~

~

We curate our garden to attract as many species of birds and pollinators as we can.  We also welcome turtles, lizards, toads, frogs and the occasional snake.  We host rabbits and squirrels, and I know that other mammals, like fox, raccoon and possums roam our community by night.  We listen to owls calling to one another across the ravines.  Sometimes we’ll see a hawk swoop down to catch a vole or mouse.

~

~

We are surrounded by wildlife.  We live in a forest bordering wetlands.  And we make a conscious decision to integrate our lives and our garden into this teeming web of life.  Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, dragonflies, song birds, and brightly colored wasps bring movement, life and sometimes living poetry to our garden.

We enjoy feeling their presence around us.  We enjoy watching them going about their lives.

~

~

Wherever you live, you can make a decision to do your part to support pollinators and other wildlife, too.  The  more of us engaged in this effort, the more seamless our efforts become.  In other words, our little oasis of safe haven and food for pollinators grows larger as more and more of us wake up, and create habitat in their outdoor spaces, too.

~

~

Here are the main principles to follow.  Each of us will interpret these individually in ways appropriate to our own circumstances:

  1.  Abstain from using toxic chemicals outdoors.  Especially, don’t use any insecticides on individual plants, in the air, or on our lawns.
  2. Allow some area to provide shelter to birds and insects.  This might be a thicket of shrubs, a brush pile, native trees, a bee hive, or even a Mason bee box.
  3. Incorporate native trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses and perennials into your planting to directly provide for the needs of wildlife in your area.  Many birds and insects have symbiotic relationships with native plants of a particular area.  Growing natives attracts and supports more of these species.
  4. Select and allow flowering plants which will produce nectar over the entire season.  If your climate is warm enough, provide nectar year round through your plant selections.  Keep in mind that some of the most beneficial ‘nectar plants,’ like clover and many wildflowers,  might appear as ‘weeds’ to humans.
  5. Provide a dependable source of fresh, clean water.

    ~

    ~

Did you notice the repeated use of the word, ‘allow’ in these guidelines?  ‘Allowing’ is an important guiding principle for wildlife gardeners.  We relax a little, and put the needs of the native wildlife ahead of our own preoccupation with neatness and control.

We might allow a few native tree seedlings, self sown, to grow where they appear.  We might allow clover and dandelions to colonize patches of our lawn.  We might allow a stand of native goldenrod to grow in our perennial border among our carefully chosen hybrids.  We might allow vines to sprawl in some part of our landscape, offering food and shelter to many small creatures.

~

~

The more we allow the natural web of life to re-emerge in our curated landscapes, the more diversity we will enjoy.  Insects attract birds.  Birds drop seeds.  Seeds sprout into new plants we hadn’t planned on.  New plants attract more pollinators.  It is a fascinating process to watch unfold.

How to begin?  First, make a commitment to nurture life instead of spreading death.  Stop using poisons and pesticides.

~

~

Once your outdoor space is no longer toxic, plant a few of the most important food source plants for the pollinators you hope to attract. Find suggestions for your region at the Xerces Society For Invertebrate Conservation.

If  you have the space, begin by planting trees and shrubs.  These will give the most ‘bang for your buck’ because they are long lived and produce many, many flowers on each plant.  Remember, too, that many herbs, even if they aren’t native to your region, provide copious nectar all summer long.

~

~

If you live in an apartment or condo, you might have room for a hanging basket or a few large containers on your porch or balcony.  Include a few nectar rich plants, like Lantana and herbs, in your planting.  Any outdoor space, even roofs, walls and balconies, may be enriched and enlivened with careful plant choices.

~

~

As much as I respect those gardeners who champion native plants, I will never advice another gardener to plant only natives.  I believe a plant’s function, and how well it meets the gardener’s needs, outweighs its provenance.  If we can include some percentage of carefully selected native plants, then we can also choose wisely from the enormous variety of interesting plants on the market today.

~

~

There are many non-native plants available which also provide shelter for birds and insects; nectar rich flowers; and fruit, seeds or berries enjoyed by birds.

Some, like Mahonia aquifolium are native on the West Coast of North America, but not here in Virginia.  They still naturalize here and grow easily, providing winter flowers for pollinators and spring berries for our birds.  Others, like Lantana cultivars, have a species form native in American tropics; but also many interesting hybrids which  grow well  in cooler regions.

~

~

Many Mediterranean herbs provide rich sources of nectar, as do common Asian shrubs, like Pyracantha and Camellia.

And there are wildlife friendly native plants, like poison ivy, that most of us would never allow to naturalize in our own garden.  However environmentally conscious we may want to be, our garden remains our personal space and must bring us comfort and joy.  Gardens are human spaces first; enjoyed, curated and tended by people.

~

~

It adds to our enjoyment of our garden when we invite beauty, in the form of pollinators, into our personal space.  We are like stage managers, tending a safe environment, ready for the music and drama these beautiful creatures always bring to it.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2017

*

“He that plants trees loves others besides himself.”

.

Thomas Fuller

.

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

What I Learned From Our Hummingbird

July 20, 2014 hummingbird 012

As more and more flowers continue to bloom, hummingbirds become more frequent visitors to our garden.

They dart around so quickly from flower to flower, and are normally so shy, that I’ve had no photos to share with you; though we see them daily now.

We’ve identified at least four different hummingbirds who frequent the garden.

But one was kind enough to visit with me at the Stump Garden late on Sunday afternoon .

July 20, 2014 hummingbird 007

Returning from a walk to a friend’s home, I stopped to take photos of the newly blooming Gladiolus.

And while I was busy snapping away from various angles, I heard the whirring buzz of a hummingbird zooming into the garden to sample the Glad’s nectar.

The hummingbird is drinking from the lowest flower on the left.

The hummingbird is drinking from the lowest flower on the left.

He was so comfortable hovering inside the huge Glad blossom, that he ignored me and my clicking, chiming camera entirely.

The Hummingbird zoomed from blossom to blossom, and then paused to rest on a leaf.

All the while I’m happily taking his portrait.

Now the hummingbird has turned to drink from the catnip on the right.  Can you see his curved beak?

Now the hummingbird has turned to drink from the catnip on the right. Can you see his curved beak?

And by observing, I learned.

Conventional wisdom holds that hummingbirds prefer red flowers.

Supposedly, that is why the plastic hummingbird kits come with gaudy red and yellow feeders and bright red Kool-Aid like mix with which to fill them.

But our little guy was sipping  first from blue Glads, then white catnip flowers, and finally from the tiny purple flowers of our Coleus, growing in the pot on the stump.

Did you know Hummingbirds would drink from Coleus flowers?  I normally break those off as a part of “grooming” the Coleus for more leaf production!

But there he was, hovering beautifully high up in the air, drinking as happily from the Coleus as from the reddest Canna, Salvia,  or Fuschia.

Hummingbirds need to consume half their weight in sugar, daily, just to survive.   They prefer flowers which offer nectar of 25%-35% sugar content.

They can starve in a matter of hours when food isn’t available. 

“Feed them and they will come.” 

Good advice, especially in the world of wildlife gardening.  And it always amazes me to see how many different species will show up for the feast, once the garden blooms each summer.

 

July 20, 2014 hummingbird 011

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

July 20, 2014 hummingbird 013

Creating A Hummingbird and Butterfly Garden

July 2014, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoys the Echinacea.

July 2014, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoys the Echinacea.

~

Even before buying this home, we were  enchanted by the many butterflies and songbirds darting around from tree to tree  behind the house.  There were trees I couldn’t even name covered in sweet smelling flowers growing in the edge of the ravine, Rose of Sharon bushes behind the house, and a great Mimosa tree covered in silky pink flowers.  Butterflies flew a circuit from one to the next, and bright hummingbirds flew unbelievably close to our windows to get to the huge Rose of Sharon flowers.

~

July 20, 2014 butterflies 014~

Over that first long winter, I planned for a butterfly and hummingbird garden to bring these bright creatures even closer.  We have been rewarded many times over by the beauty of both the flowers and the birds and insects drawn to them.

~

October 1, 2010 044

Sages, zinnias, Lantana and roses provide a constant variety of sweet nectar in the butterfly garden.

~

By nature, these animals like to stay on the move, and appreciate a variety of different locations where they can feed.  We provide several beds of nectar rich flowers, and also grow pots and baskets of flowers on the deck and patio to attract them close to our windows.  This keeps them well fed and attracts a huge variety of bees, dragonflies, and other insects in addition to the butterflies.

~

Buddliea, or Butterfly Bush, attracts lots of attention in the garden and is a generous supplier of nectar.  New compact hybrids are available, but the species can grow quite large and benefits from hard pruning in February.

Buddliea, or Butterfly Bush, attracts lots of attention in the garden and is a generous supplier of nectar. New compact hybrids are available, but the species can grow quite large and benefits from hard pruning in February.

~

In addition to food, butterflies and hummingbirds need safe areas to rest and sun themselves and a source of water.  A shallow dish full of sand, gravel, and fresh water serves the butterflies.  Hummingbirds enjoy flying through a gentle spray of water, whether from a fountain or a garden hose.

~

Butterfly tree attracts many butterflies and hummingbird moths to the garden.  These grow wild in our neighborhood.

Butterfly tree attracts many butterflies and hummingbird moths to the garden. These grow wild in our neighborhood.

~

It is important to use organic products, and avoid poisons, in areas bees, butterflies, and birds frequent. 

~

August 26, 2014 garden 044

Chives

~

There are high quality and affordable products widely available to fertilize and control fungal infections for the plants.  Attracting a wide variety of insects and birds keeps any insect infestations in check.

~

Tiger Swallowtail on Joe Pye Weed

Tiger Swallowtail on Joe Pye Weed

~

A huge variety of song birds will show up to feast on the many insects attracted to this garden.  Hummingbirds also eat insects.  I frequently find toads, turtles and small lizards in our butterfly gardens feasting on whatever insects crawl or fly past.   Bats visit our garden at dusk, leaving their shelters in the ravine to fly loops over our garden, devouring insects as they fly.  Using poisons of any kind will defeat the purpose of a garden planted to attract wildlife.

~

Dill in our garden last July

Dill with Lantana offer an irresistible attraction for butterflies and other small pollinating insects.

~

Our butterfly gardens have evolved and grown over our six summers now in this garden.  We have added a greater variety of native perennials like Joe Pye Weed, Milkweed, and hardy native Hibiscus.  We have also planted more herbs and other fragrant plants distasteful to the deer.  We always include herbs which double as host plants, such as fennel, dill and parsley.

~

Baskets of Fuschia near the house keep hummingbirds happy.

Baskets of Fuchsia keep hummingbirds happy and frequent visitors.

~

We have opened up new gardens in every part of the yard, leaving some natural areas for habitat.  From Crepe Myrtle and Lantana growing at the top of our garden along the street to gardens terraced down the back slope towards the ravine, there are abundant food sources to attract a variety of nectar loving creatures.

~

Butterfly bush with native Hibiscus

Butterfly bush with native Hibiscus

~

The garden always grows more exciting after the first hummingbird and first butterfly is sighted in the springtime.  It feels very empty when they depart in the autumn.  But for those wonderful months in between, we enjoy exploring the garden each day, watching for these fascinating visitors.

~

Red Canna flowers and Hibiscus attract both hummingbirds and pollinating insects, including butterflies.

Red Canna flowers and Hibiscus attract both hummingbirds and pollinating insects, including butterflies.

~

Here is a list of some annuals, perennials, herbs, vines, and shrubs I grow to feed and attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, dragonflies, and song birds.

Achillea (perennial flower)

A hummingbird moth feeds from our Lantana.

A hummingbird moth feeds from our Lantana.

Basil (annual edible herb)

Buddleia (also, “Butterfly Bush” perennial shrub)

Canna (perennial flower)

Clary Sage (annual herb)

Cleome (annual flower)

Coleus– (annual)

Comfrey (perennial medicinal herb with lavender flowers)

Crepe Myrtle (flowering tree)

This is one of the many Crepe Myrtle trees growing around our garden.

This is one of the many Crepe Myrtle trees growing around our garden.

Echinacea  (perennials flower which attracts butterflies.  The seeds attract goldfinches)

Fuchsias (tender perennial)

Jasmine (flowering vine)

Lavender (perennial edible herb)

Lilac (flowering shrub)

Heliotrope (annual herb)

Hibiscus (perennial or tender perennial shrub, depending on the variety)

Hollyhocks (biennials or perennials)

Coleus

Coleus

Honeysuckle (perennial vine)

Hyacinth Bean (annual vine)

Jasmine (perennial vine, evergreen)

Lantana (annual or tender perennial, depending on the variety, in Zone 7 B)

Marigolds (annual flower)

Mexican Blue Sage (perennial herb)

Milkweed (perennial flower which is also a host plant for Monarch butterflies)

Mimosa (flowering tree)

Monarda (also called Bergamot or Bee Balm.  This is an edible herb)

Moonflower (flowering vine)

Oregano (perennial edible herb)

Parsley (biennial herb, host for caterpillars)

Hardy Hibiscus

Hardy Hibiscus

Pelargonium (any of several types of perennial geraniums)

Pentas (annual flowers)

Petunias (tender perennial flower)

Pineapple Sage (perennial edible herb whose red flowers attract hummingbirds)

Roses (perennial shrub)

Rose of Sharon (flowering shrub)

Rudbeckia (perennial flower)

Salvia (perennial herbs, some are edible)

Yarrow (perennial flower)

Zinnias (annual flower which attracts butterflies.  The seeds attract goldfinches)

Woodland Gnome 2013-2015

 

Mexican Blue Sage and Pineapple sage are the main attraction in the butterfly garden at the end of October.

Mexican Blue Sage and Pineapple sage are the main attraction in the butterfly garden at the end of October.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 677 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest