Recommended Websites
Recommended books:

Western Garden Book by Sunset

Western Garden Book of Edibles by Sunset

California Native Plants for the Garden by Bornstein, Fross, and O’Brien

Edible Landscapes by Rosalind Creasy

The Edible Herb Garden by Rosalind Creasy

Western Garden Problem Solver by Sunset

Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What to Do about It Robert Glennon

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    « BLUE Hydrangeas for Fourth of July Display | Main | Blueberries for Warm Winter Climate »

    Plant a Garden for Hummingbirds


    The robins hit my neighborhood in a storm with huge flocks of males last January, eating the berries of my neighbor's Camphor tree.  Their arrival is usually a harbinger of Spring and they swarm in a display of hungered frenzy every year.  The weather has been rather warm this past February after a very chilly December and January.  We often see a warm trend this time of year to only get hit with a few more weeks of cold before spring truly arrives at the end of March.  So far I have only counted a few chilly days.  Spring is upon us!

    The hummingbirds have also started migrating north.  They are a couple of weeks early and are moving up into North America and Europe alike.  Scientists believe that it is because their wintering sites are warmer than in the past.  The problem is that many of the nectar sources and insects the hummingbirds feed on may not be available in the quantities needed.  Hummingbirds select their mates and stamp out their territories and then nest.  Having ample food sources for the young has scientists a bit concerned and observing the trend.

    How can we help?
    Many folks like to put out hummingbird feeders.  If you do so, make sure to clean the feeder and stock regularly.  Hummers become dependent on that source and it needs to be clean and free of mildew. Also be sure it is located in an area where they have secure cover from predators.

    A better way we can help the hummers in the future is planting plants in the garden that provides them with nectar sources at different times of the year.  California natives and other drought tolerant plants do well in the San Jose area.  There are many plants hummers are highly attracted to, especially tubular flowers and red flowers.  Insects on the plants provide another source of food so do not use pesticides and herbicides in your garden.  Use only organic fertilizer if you must.  Compost is a healthier source of nutrients for plants.

    Don’t fertilize natives nor disturb their roots or they will die from the stress.  Also drought tolerant plants in general need very good drainage.  Standing water and overall wet conditions will rot the roots.

    Here are some garden nectar favorites: (Photos to follow once I take them)

    Agastache, Hyssop   Beloved by Hummingbirds and butterflies, Hyssop is a water wise, full sun plant that comes in a range of colors.  They average about 18” tall and wide.  Great for a cottage garden look without the water bill.

    Arctostaphylos or Manzanita are California natives with small bell like flowers at the end of winter and are usually in bloom mid February.  These plants help provide a much needed nectar source before the big spring bloom.  These plants are also grown for their beautiful burgundy colored bark.

    Callistemon, Bottle Brush is a hardy plant with bright red flowers in a bottle brush formation.  These plants come in compact dwarf sizes to shrubs that eventually can be small trees.  They are very popular with hummingbirds and bees alike and bloom often throughout the year.  They need full sun and the regular varieties will need space when mature.

    Ceanothus spp., California Lilac can grow coastal or inland depending on the variety.  They are a good overlap with the native Manzanitas to provide nectar in late winter.  They bloom in white to every shade of blue to indigo.  They come in prostrate sizes only reaching 2 feet tall and growing out to 8 feet, to tall specimens that can become small trees.  There are even a couple of variegated versions with green and yellow leaves.  These plants prefer full sun unless they are a coastal variety and then need shade in the heat of day inland. Once established they should not get any supplemental irrigation, especially in summer or they die an early death.
    Ceanothus 'El Dorado'
    Epilobium spp., California Fuchsia is a California native with red tubular flowers.  It likes full sun and blooms spring to summer.  They come in different sizes and forms so pick one that fits your garden.

    Salvia clevelandii, Cleveland Sage is a California native and it has a wonderful fragrance. Great for rubbing against by a walkway.  Plant them in full sun where it can grow 3 to 5 feet tall and wide.  The very small blue tubular flowers grow in clusters at increments up a stalk.

    Salvia gregii, Autumn Sage blooms profusely in autumn but usually has flowers all year long except during hard frosts. Hummingbirds love this plant as well and it is a good plant for color at least three seasons long. Comes in a varieties of reds, pinks, purples and white.

    Salvia elegans, Pineapple Sage is a hummer favorite.  Bright red tubular blooms occur in fall and go on until frost.  These plants can get 4-6 feet tall.  The 'Golden Delicious' variety has chartreuse green leaves and only gets 3' tall and wide.  These plants can be cut back to rejuvenate.  The leaves can be used to add flavor to cold drinks, also be used in cooking but the flavor and aroma are greatly diminished.Pineapple Sage with red flower and Mexican Bush Sage with purple flower. Both bloom profuesly in fall and great nectar plants.

    Salvia spp., Sage in general attracts hummingbirds and different varieties bloom in different seasons from spring through fall.  Even varieties considered annuals can give a boost of color in the garden and extra nectar.  Most are aromatic if rubbed, and many are edible.  A must have in the water wise garden.

    Penstemon spp. There are many native and non-native varieties.  These plants can usually grow to 3 feet tall and wide with time and the tubular flowers come in many colors.  They like full sun but can do well in part sun too.  They can take a mix of water, making them good transition plants between sun and shade or lawn and dry areas.

    Trichostema lanatum Wooly Blue Curls  A California native, it has tubular blue flowers along long stems.  A great nectar source, very aromatic, and adds a great color to the garden.   It will grow 3-4’ tall and wide.  Evergreen in San Jose area and after it is established only low water to none at all. 

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