Cardinal Flower

All posts tagged Cardinal Flower

By Lori Athey: Backyard Habitat Coordinator

The Delaware Nature Society Native Plant Sale (May 1- 4) theme this year is “Inspired Plant Combinations: Create Your Garden Masterpiece”.  Got a spot in your garden that needs some POW?  We can help!

When considering buying new plants, first note the light and soil moisture conditions where you want to plant.  Second, consider how much space (height and width) you want the new plant to fill. Our plant sale catalog gives you all the information you need to make the right plant selections. If you are starting from scratch with a new bed, you will want a combination of plants…maybe a small tree, a few shrubs and some groundcovers.  If you are adding plants to an existing bed think about what is already there, what type of garden interest are you trying to achieve, and how will your new plant fill that role?

A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird visits Monarda in a backyard garden.  Photo by Hank Davis.

A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird visits Monarda in a backyard garden. Photo by Hank Davis.

Back to that POW!  One of the most exciting wildlife experiences in the garden is when you have a visiting Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  Below is a list of my favorite plants to attract the Hummingbirds.  They all flower in shades of red, orange & deep coral pink.  How is that for POW? 

*Wild Columbine/Aqualegia canadensis blooms April-May, perennial

Wild Columbine is another hummingbird favorite where you can see them feed from underneath the flower.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Wild Columbine is another hummingbird favorite where you can see them feed from underneath the flower. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

*Fire Pink/Silene virginica blooms April-May, perennial

Fire Pink POW!  Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Fire Pink POW! Photo by Joe Sebastiani

*Red Buckeye/Aesculus pavia blooms in May, small tree or large shrub

*Trumpet Honeysuckle/Lonicera sempervirens blooms May to frost, woody vine, hummers prefer the red and coral selections

*Indian Pink/Spigelia marlandica blooms June-August and sporadically to frost, perennial

*Beebalm/Monarda red selections bloom June-July, perennial

*Turk’s Cap Lily/Lilium superbum blooms in July, perennial bulb

The tall Turk's Cap Lily will add a big color splash with a gorgeous structure, and in addition to hummingbirds, you will see butterflies nectaring on it.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani

The tall Turk’s Cap Lily will add a big color splash with a gorgeous structure, and in addition to hummingbirds, you will see butterflies nectaring on it. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

*Plumleaf Azalea/Rhododendron prunifolium blooms July-August, large shrub

*Cardinal Flower/Lobelia cardinalis blooms July-September, perennial

*Trumpet Vine/Campsis radicans orange selections bloom July-September, woody vine

Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans, really swallows up a feeding hummingbird.  Photo by Hank Davis.

Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans, really swallows up a feeding hummingbird. Photo by Hank Davis.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds arrive in Delaware in mid-April and are residents through the summer.  In the fall, you will see an increase in their numbers since young birds are around and fall migrants are visiting our area.  By October, they are virtually all gone with the exception of a straggler or two.  Knowing this, you can plan to have a succession of blooms for them.  Add a sugar-water feeder to your garden for supplemental food, and be sure to clean the feeder regularly so that the water doesn’t spoil and make them sick.  Boil a solution of 4 parts water and 1 part sugar so that it keeps in the fridge longer.  Replace the solution at least once per week, and at the same time, clean the feeder with a 10% bleach/water solution.  This way, your garden hummingbirds will be happy and healthy.  Additionally, if you really want to spoil them, you can provide a “mister” that creates a fine mist of water that hummingbirds love to bathe in.   

Of course, Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis, is a well known and popular hummingbird attracting plant.  The reason?  It works!  Photo by Hank Davis.

Of course, Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis, is a well known and popular hummingbird attracting plant. The reason? It works! Photo by Hank Davis.

Plant enough of the perennials to create a good-sized patch, so you will get their attention.  Vines should be planted on a mature deciduous tree (like an old Wild Cherry) or a very sturdy structure.  For additional interest in the fall and winter, add a few Winterberry Hollies (Ilex verticillata both male and female) or Red Osier Dogwoods (Cornus serecia) and underneath it all, plant with Green-and-Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum).By adding a few of these native plants, your yard should be humming with activity all summer long.  Excited for spring yet!!!

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

An adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbird visits a Cardinal Flower in search of nectar. Image by Hank Davis, August 23, 2011.

Late August brings the peak of fal migration for the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in our region, and the reports coming in this week tell us that these tiny birds are reaching peak numbers in local backyard feeding stations.  The feeders at the Ashland Nature Center this week drew 6 or 8 hummingbirds at a time, battling for space at the sugar water ports.   I have heard of other feeding stations that are swarmed by literally dozens of hummingbirds.  Both adults and this year’s juvenile humingbirds are stocking up as they undertake their migration to winter in Central America.

A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird reaches deep into a Cardinal Flower with her long beak. Image by Hank Davis, August 23, 2011.

One of the best ways to watch these amazing birds, though, is at a natural nectar source.  The Ruby-throated Hummingbird has a noted preference for red-colored flowers and the Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is a highly-desirable food source for hummingbirds.  Local photographer Hank Davis,  of Harold Davis Photography, is capturing incredible images of hummingbirds visiting the flowers in his backyard.  He graciously shared these photographs with us to be enjoyed by the readers of this blog.

A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovering-- a challenge to capture with camera! Image by Hank Davis, August 24, 2011.

The beauty of hummingbirds is easier to appreciate when captured in the fine detail of Hank’s photographs.  The iridescence of their feathers is incredible, and the speed at which they beat their wings (60+ times per second) is truly remarkable. 

Early this afternoon, as the first heavy bands of rain from Hurrican Irene lashed down, I walked into the marsh at Ashland to take some pre-flood photographs.  There along the boardwalk I found a lot of hummingbirds actively feeding on the blooms of the Jewelweed plant.  These birds are stoking up on fuel to help them hang tough as the conditions deteriorate in the next 24 hours.  The high winds and flooding associated with this storm will undoubtedly destroy many of the flowers that these hummingbirds feed on.   If you have a hummingbird feeder, you may likely see a lot more hummingbirds visiting right after the storm.  They will be thirsty, and you will be serving up their favorite cocktail.  Should we call it a Sugar Water Hurricane?