Store Cart

No

 Keep feeders clean and freshly filled year-round. He uses several 8-ounce feeders because "they're easier to keep clean in the summer; the sugar doesn't mold as much."

The standard recipe for sugar-water to feed hummingbirds safely is 1 cup plain white sugar, 4 cups water, boiled and allowed to cool. Coloring isn't needed. Honey, juices and other sweeteners sicken hummingbirds.

 Provide water. Barca has scattered 14 birdbaths and 13 small running water fountains around his half-acre. You certainly don't need this many, but clean water is as important as food, and perhaps even more important than food in the summertime when insects and nectar are plentiful but rain is scarce.

 Don't use pesticides. Hummingbirds need protein from small insects like gnats.

 Choose plants that provide nectar, such as those below. For patios and decks, consider a combination like Barca's in containers. He says in just a few pots, he offered "a hummingbird smorgasbord" during fall and winter. You can select and plant these attractive shrubs now. Use containers large enough to allow root room; most of these shrubs will stay two to three years in containers before needing repotting or planting out.

Hardy fuchsias. Oddly, the smaller fuchsia flowers have more nectar, according to Barca's observations. He has had hardy Fuchsia 'Isis,' with miniature red flowers, blooming in a protected spot through fall, and he notes that "when it's in bloom, hummingbirds come to it every day." Hardy fuchsias differ from the bulbous-flowered basket kinds, which look gorgeous but are less nutritious from the bird's viewpoint. Look also for Fuchsia magellanica 'Alba,' a vigorous white that attracts them.

Hybrid mahonias. These bloom over the months of November, December, January and into February with vivid yellow flowers carried in showy upright panicles. Mahonia 'Arthur Menzies' overlaps in bloom with the cultivar 'Lionel Fortescue.' Barca kept 'Lionel Fortescue' healthy in a container throughout the winter.

Correa. Also called Australian fuchsia, correa resembles fuchsia only in its dangling red flowers. Gray-leaved and tolerant of hot spots, it requires protection from winter cold but has bloomed for Barca off and on through November and December.

Grevillea. Another Down Under plant, the best for this area is Grevillea lanigera, with red flowers in fall and winter. Barca grows 'Coastal Gem' in pots, which suit its 18-inch stature (though it can spread to about 3 feet). 'Mt. Tamboritha' grows larger but is also hardy and adaptable, as is 'Victoria.'

Other shrubs relished by hummingbirds include native currant (Ribes sanguineum), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) and salmon-berry (Rubus spectabilis). Flowering herbaceous perennials such as penstemon and columbine also attract them.

The gardener of Hummingbird Hill recommends a new book, "Hummingbird Gardens" by Barbara Nielsen, Nancy Newfield and Roger Tory Peterson (Houghton Mifflin, $22).

Adding plants for hummingbirds will give your garden another dimension: the whirr of wings and the shine of vivid feathers.

Garden expert Mary Robson, retired area horticulture agent for Washington State University/King County Cooperative Extension, appears regularly in digs and in Practical Gardener in Northwest Life on Wednesdays. Her e-mail is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Special to the Seattle Times