Pacific Northwest

March, 2006
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Winter Camellia
There really is no contest ... my favorite landscape plant this time of year is definitely Camellia sasanqua. Blooms of deep to bright pink against dark, glossy green foliage from mid-December through February make this a standout in my garden.

Camellias originate from subtropical regions in China and Japan and are easily cultivated in open ground or in pots. They love warm, wet summers and moderately cold, dry winters. Cultural requirements for camellias are similar to those for rhododendrons, azaleas, and hollies. They like acidic, well-draining soil, some afternoon sunshine, and a light application of fertilizer in early spring. Occasional pruning will keep the shrubs in shape. Camellia cultivars usually set five to seven flower buds on each terminal shoot. Disbudding (removing all except one or two buds) will help the remaining buds develop into larger, longer-lasting flowers.

Clever Gardening Technique

Reduce Pest Populations with Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds are voracious feeders, consuming half their weight each day in sugar. This healthy appetite requires several feedings per hour, and the preferred source for sugar and many other nutrients is the nectar produced by certain flowers. In addition to the nectar, hummingbirds also feast on the small insects similarly attracted to nectar-producing flowers. Planting a garden rich in nectar-bearing flowers from early spring until late autumn is the key to attracting these birds and keeping them around for the growing season.

Hummingbirds are particular about their flowers. They have coevolved with many plants, like penstemon and salvia, and act as pollinating agents for these flowers. Many of the flowers that hummingbirds are attracted to are long and tubular, and although they are most often attracted to the color red, they will frequent other flowers if they know them to be good sources of nectar.

Flowers that attract hummingbirds grow on all types of plants and can fit into any garden design. Annuals such as lemon mint (Monarda citriodora), scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea), and spider flower (Cleome hassleriana) produce tubular blooms all summer. Perennials like columbines (Aquilegia spp.), bee balm (Monarda didyma), red hot poker (Kniphofia spp.), and penstemons (Penstemon spp.) attract hummingbirds during the spring and summer, thrive in full sun to part shade, and are hardy in zones 4 through 8.

Shrubs such as beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis) and weigela (Weigela spp.) also produce tubular flowers all summer and are hardy in Zones 4-8.

Add a few of these plants to your garden, and I bet you'll enjoy hummers all summer long.

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