Doug Tallamy in Avalon, NJ, on Mon., August 26, 2024 (7 pm)

Hi Gang,

Doug Tallamy is returning to Avalon, NJ, this August to present a brand new program.  I’m intrigued and looking forward to hearing it.  Like me, he gets e-mails, calls, and requests to answer questions folks have.  Often, these requests are from folks who have read his 4 excellent books, heard him speak, jumped in to planting native plants, but they want and need more information.  Well, Doug Tallamy plans to include many of those questions and his answers in this new program.  Mark your calendar and don’t miss it!

Monday, August 26, 2024
7:00 p.m.
Doug Tallamy presents:
“I Know You’re Very Busy but  …
I want to learn more about nature gardening”
WHERE: Avalon Community Center
3001 Avalon Avenue
Avalon, NJ 08202
FREE, no preregistration needed

ABOUT THIS PROGRAM in Doug Tallamy’s words:  Nearly every day I get emails from people who have read my books and heard my talks and yet still have questions about ecological landscaping. These are good, thoughtful questions about ecology and evolution, biodiversity, invasive species, insect declines, native and non-native plants, conservation and restoration, residential and city landscapes, urban issues, oak biology, keystone plants, Homegrown National Park, monarchs, supporting wildlife at home, and more. In this talk I address as many of these queries as I can with hope that my answers will further motivate people to help restore ecosystem function where they live, work, play, worship, and farm.

Doug Tallamy is the T. A. Baker Professor of Agriculture in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he has authored 111 research publications and has taught insect-related courses for 41 years. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. His books include Bringing Nature Home, The Living Landscape, co-authored with Rick Darke, Nature’s Best Hope, a New York Times Best Seller and The Nature of Oaks, which won the American Horticultural Society’s 2022 award. In 2021 he cofounded Homegrown National Park with Michelle Alfandari. His awards include recognition from The Garden Writer’s Association, Audubon, The National Wildlife Federation, Allegheny College, Ecoforesters, The Garden Club of America and The American Horticultural Association.

This program is sponsored by the Avalon Environmental Commission and the Avalon Free Public Library.

Change the course of dwindling bird, butterfly, and moth numbers by gardening for LIFE with native plants.  Learn from the guru who has taught so many so much, Doug Tallamy: Entomologist, professor at the University of Delaware, and author of four  highly educational, eye-opening, and award-winning books.

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Doug Tallamy speak.  Too, please spread the word.  Let’s grow our numbers!    Bring your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and your landscaper (so you can speak the same language)!

Pat

Some Sources of Native Plants in 2024

Most of May, Wild Columbine fills our sunny perennial garden (seen here), the woods, and all edges of our yard . . . all from a few plants gifted to me in 1992 by a fellow wildlife gardener. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are drawn to it as well as other pollinators like this American Bumble Bee (May 9, 2024).

Hi Gang,

This spring my garden took so much of my time (everything takes longer when you are in your 70s) that I created an update of “Some Sources of Native Plants” that I hope will not be so labor intensive for me in the future.  But what that means, is that YOU will have to follow the website links I’ve shared to learn of nursery opening dates and hours, pop-up sale dates, and non-profit native plant sale dates & details yourself.   My list includes THE BEST sources of native plants that I feel comfortable recommending.  So, check it out and visit websites and facebook pages to learn of each of their hours and 2024 offerings!  Consider yourselves very, very fortunate that there are so many sources of native plants.   That was NOT the case when I began planting natives in the late 1970s and 1980s, or even in the 1990s or early 2000s!

You will find my 6-page “Some Sources of Native Plants in 2024” at the end of this post, already updated to its 2nd Edition (5-20-24).

To help people find the top ranked plants in their county Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, is working with National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder (a work in progress).

A number of websites have searchable Native Plant Databases with filters to help you generate lists of plants suited for various sites on your property.  Some of my favorites follow:  Prairie Nursery, Prairie Moon Nursery, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and Jersey-Friendly Yards Website  which has filters for “native plants only” (@ 317), wildlife value, region, ecoregion (barrier island/coastal, Pinelands), deer resistant, drought tolerance, salt tolerance, and many more filters.  Have at it and see what may work in your yard!

PLEASE NOTE: many native plant nurseries are not like the nursery down the road. Often they are owned, maintained, and run by a caring native plant grower who is surviving by also working a 2nd job or sometimes even a 2nd full-time job that covers their health insurance and most of their income. This being the case, they are not available 24-7 to answer all your questions. But when they are open or hosting a pop-up sale, they eagerly and gladly share their knowledge and will guide you towards the best native plants for your site. These same growers collect their own local native seeds or cuttings (they do not dig up from the wild), and they do not use systemic Neonicotinoid Insecticides that would cancel out future generations of butterflies and moths (more on Neonics below). So, don’t panic when their milkweeds have aphids; but instead realize that if there are no aphids, it means the grower has spent hours hand picking them off. Know too that growing from seed can be a lengthy process. The Turk’s-Cap Lily, Lilium superbum, that I purchased from Clemenson Farms Native Nursery in 2014 (now a patch of 44 stalks a/o May 2024) took the Clemensons 8 years to grow out from seed to plant that could be sold. Understand too, that some natives are slow to break ground in spring so are not going to be available during early-season sales: milkweeds, Partridge Pea, and Joe-pye-weed to name a few.

Once hooked on wildlife gardening with native plants, it can be a real challenge to find native plants.  Yes a few have been mainstreamed, and the nursery down the street may carry them.  But BEWARE OF CULTIVARS OF NATIVE PLANTS.  Cultivars are plants created or selected for specific characteristics such as early blooming or color, often at the expense of nectar, berries (the plants may be sterile), and sometimes even the leaf chemistry is changed so the plant can no longer be used as a caterpillar plant.  We (wildlife gardeners) want the nectar, the berries, and we want the leaf chemistry intact so our butterflies can create the next generation!

That said, some straight natives might be ill behaved and total thugs, overwhelming other plants in your garden and leading to hours and hours spent thinning them every single year.  This is the case with Cutleaf Coneflower.  In 2009, a friend shared a cultivar of this plant with me (Cutleaf Coneflower, Rudbeckia lacinata “Herbstsonne,”) that is a Chocolate Cake, always full of pollinators, and not a thug at all because it is sterile.  I’ve raved about my Cutleaf Coneflower for years, many have planted the straight native, and been frazzled by its rambunctious wanderings.

Be careful too that your plants are Neonicotinoid free.  Neonicotinoids are systemic (get into every part of the plant, including pollen, nectar, even dew) pesticides that are applied to many commercially-available nursery plants and are harmful to bees, caterpillars, moths, butterflies, and other beneficial pollinators.

Speak up when you purchase plants.  Ask if the nursery uses Neonicotinoid Insecticides. If they don’t know what you are talking about, it sounds like a nursery to avoid. If they proudly share that they do not use Neonicotinoid Insecticides (verbally and/or on their website), they are a nursery “in the know” and a nursery to support. The Xerces Society’s publication, “Protecting Pollinators from Pesticides: Buying Bee-Safe Plants,” addresses asking nurseries these important questions and is available HERE.  There is a complimentary Xerces Society publication for nurseries, “Offering Bee-Safe Plants: A Guide for Nurseries,” available HERE.  Let nurseries you frequent know about it.  If you find that any of the nurseries on my list are “in the dark” and still using Neonicotinoids, please alert me ! ! ! 

Around the world steps are being taken to protect pollinators from neonics. In 2018, the European Union voted to completely ban all outdoor uses of three types of neonics (citing their impacts to honey bees). Canada followed suit, planning to phase out all outdoor use of three specific neonics in 3-5 years (2021-2023) because of impacts to aquatic ecosystems. In 2016 Connecticut became the first state in the nation to restrict the use of neonicotinoids when the legislature unanimously passed An Act Concerning Pollinator Health (banning sales of neonics for use by general consumers in backyard garden settings). Soon after, Maryland passed a similar bill that restricts the sale of neonics and bans their use by consumers.  And in January 2022, New Jersey became the 6th state to pass a similar bill to save pollinators by classifying bee-killing neonicotinoids (also known as neonics) as restricted use pesticides.

Educate yourself about Neonics by reading the following:

  1. Xerces Society’s “Protecting Bees From Neonicotinoids in Your Garden, 2nd version (includes list of products with neonics in them).”
  2. Xerces Society’s How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees, the Science Behind the Role These Insecticides Play in Harming Bees (in-depth study, 2nd Edition)
  3. Xerces Society’s “Neonicotinoid Movement in the Environment” POSTER (how neonics move through the landscape and are being found even where they were not used)
  4. American Bird Conservancy’s  Neonicotinoid Insecticides Harm The Little Creatures, including how 90 percent of food samples taken from Congressional cafeterias contain neonicotinoid insecticides (highly toxic to birds and other wildlife) .

HUGE IINSECT DIE-OFF / INSECT APOCALYPSE

  1. A car “splatometer” study finds huge insect die-off
    Nov. 13, 2019, by Damian Carrington, Environmental Editor, The Guardian
    Measuring how many bugs fly into car windshields might sound silly. But to scientists predicting an “insect apocalypse,” the numbers are deadly serious.
  2. Insect apocalypse’ poses risk to all life on Earth, conservationists warn        Feb. 12, 2020, by Damian Carrington, Environmental Editor, The Guardian
  3. The Insect Crisis, The Fall of the Tiny Empires That Run the World, by Oliver Milman. 2022. A devastating examination of how collapsing insect populations worldwide threaten everything from wild birds to the food on our plate.

BIRDS ARE VANISHING

  1. “Birds are Vanishing from North America”
    The number of birds in the United States and Canada has declined by 2.9 billion, or 29 percent, over the past 50 years (1970-2019), scientists find (Science, 2019).
  2. “A Neonicotinoid Insecticide Reduces Fueling and Delays Migration in Songbirds,” by Margaret Eng, Bridget Stutchbury, Christy Morrissey.  Science, 13 September 2019, Vol. 365, Issue 6458, pp. 1177-1180.

WHAT WE CAN DO

Here are just a few of the things that each and every one of us can do:

1. Plant NATIVES, especially Keystone Species (read Doug Tallamy’s books to understand what Keystone Species are).  If you live in the East,  the “Eastern Temperate Forests – Ecoregion 8″ plant list should be the backbone of your plantings!  If you live elsewhere, chose your Ecoregion HERE for your list of Keystone Species.

2. Ask nurseries you frequent if their native plants have been treated with Neonicotinoids (see Xerces Society’s document, “Protecting Pollinators from Pesticides: Buying Bee-Safe Plants,” for tips and how to ask these important questions) . If they don’t know, ask them to find out. If the answer is yes, don’t purchase and explain why, that Neonics are hazardous to the wildlife you are trying to attract and benefit.

3. Leave fallen leaves on the ground: they are full of insect life, they protect tree and shrub and perennial roots, they break down and naturally nourish your soil, and they prevent erosion. Listen to Doug Tallamy’s talk about his latest book, The Nature of Oaks (search youtube Doug Tallamy Nature of Oaks), and learn that oak leaves are the BEST fallen leaves to LEAVE on the ground because it takes them so long to break down (3 years or more). All that time (3+ years) they are providing for an abundance of LIFE that needs fallen leaves to survive. Heather Holm calls these leaves “Soft Landings” for the many caterpillars feeding on the tree above to land in and then nestle down into as they metamorphose into the next life stage before emerging as an adult butterfly or moth the following year.   To truly preserve the life in leaf litter do not mow it / mulch it (that would chop up all that life using it).

4. DO NOT USE Pesticides (including Organic – they KILL too) or Herbicides or synthetic Fertilizers

5. Turn outdoor lights OFF at night (use motion sensor lights instead)

6. Remove as many invasive plants as possible on your property

7. Share some of your native “Chocolate Cake” perennial divisions (that are also Keystone Species: Asters and Goldenrods, for example) with others to help get them hooked

8. Read and give Doug Tallamy’s books (Bringing Nature Home, Nature’s Best Hope, and The Nature of Oaks ) to family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors.

9. If you ever have a chance to hear Doug Tallamy speak, BE THERE and bring your neighbor, friend, family member, landscaper, lawn care service worker so they can learn to speak the same language. In the meantime Google “YouTube videos (or podcasts) Doug Tallamy” and you’ll have dozens to choose from, many of which are keynote talks he’s given about the importance of insects, native plants, fallen leaves, and much more. Watch Doug Tallamy’s presentations and what you learn may change your life and/or the way you view life. Share video links with neighbors, friends, family members, co-workers.

10. Read and give Heather Holm’s books about beneficial pollinators (Pollinators of Native Plants; Bees, An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide; and Wasps, Their Biology, Diversity, and Role as Beneficial Insects and Pollinators of Native Plants) to family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to help you (and others) understand beneficial pollinators. You’ll learn key practices like leaving stem stubble during spring garden clean up and standing dead trees (these stems and dead trees provide pollinator nesting sites), utilize fallen branches and tree trunks to line garden or woodland paths (ditto: potential nest sites), leave fallen leaves, and avoid too much hardscaping, mulching, and turf so that ground-nesting pollinators have safe places to nest.

Some Sources of NATIVE PLANTS: 2024
by Patricia Sutton
click here for the 6-page printable pdf

2024: 2nd Edition (5-21-24)

 

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds: How to Attract Them

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Coral Honeysuckle, a GREAT native spring nectar source that often reblooms all summer long

Hi Gang,

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are migrating north! There was a real HIT of them yesterday, Monday, April 15, 2024, when many reported seeing the first ones in their Cape May County, NJ, yards.  I was away and got home late in the day.  You can bet that one of my first tasks this morning was to make hummingbird solution, fill a few feeders, and place them where they could easily be seen from inside the house.

You can monitor Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration north (AND enter your own sightings) on the 2024 Hummingbird Central  map and on the  Journey North  map.  When you go to each of these sites,  be sure to set the date for these migration maps to 2024.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been surging north from their wintering grounds (northern Panama and Costa Rica, north to southern Mexico) since mid-February and March.  They will steadily move north with each good migration weather day, the opening of important nectar plants, and warm enough days with insect life.

Native nectar sources that I planted for hummingbirds and other pollinators are about to bloom: Coral Honeysuckle, Wild Columbine, and Red Buckeye to name a few.

Why Feeders?

You might wonder why I recommend putting out a hummingbird feeder, which is obviously an artificial nectar source. When hummingbirds arrive, my garden is still dirt! Without well-maintained feeders, “on-the-move” Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will keep going.  Nothing much is in bloom.

Why More Than 1 Feeder?

In spring I hang 6-8 feeders scattered around our yard, so that returning males (they migrate first) can’t take control of our whole yard. I want females to settle in too and consider nesting in our yard. I’ll space the feeders out. I put one feeder on each end of my front porch (and enjoy them from the front porch rockers). I hang one from a shepherd’s hook on our back porch, easily viewed from the kitchen and sunroom. I hang one from the arbor into our perennial garden. I hang one from a tree limb at the back of our garden. And I hang one at the back of our woods.  This way females will have options, places to set up their own territory and nest in our yard, away from bossy, territorial males (who DO NOT share, even with females they’ve mated with).  When activity picks up I add two more, one outside my office window and one outside our screened porch.

The Proper Solution for a Hummingbird Feeder

The solution I use (that is most like nectar) is 1 part sugar and 4 parts water. I make a quart at a time and refrigerate what’s left. I’ll only put two ounces into each feeder in the spring (and in late fall) because use is light and the last thing any of us want to do is waste sugar water (sugar cane fields are gobbling up important habitat). I mark my calendar so that each week, like clockwork, I empty and clean the feeders with hot soapy water, then rinse them with boiling water, and then put in 2 ounces of fresh solution (when temperatures heat up, I clean the feeders every 3 days).  NO red dye is necessary; the feeders have enough bright red parts to attract hummers and red dye is cancer causing (and outlawed in many countries).  Hummingbirds have long tongues and can easily reach the 2 ounces of solution.  I don’t fill the feeders with more solution until activity gets crazy and that doesn’t happen until young are on the wing and during migration when so many birds are tanking up and moving through our habitat.

Keep an eye on Journey North’s Ruby-throated Hummingbird MAP  and on Hummingbird Central’s MAP to see their movement north so you are ready for them.

The site I recommended for 23 years, Hummingbirds.Net, is still available.  On this site you can view 23 years of spring migration maps (1996-2018) for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, but there have been no LIVE maps since 2018. The creator of this great website is no longer able to maintain it because of technical (and expensive) changes (his explanation can be read at the top of the page HERE).

If you are a new wildlife gardener, be sure to also provide:

  1. a pesticide-free property (since hummingbirds also feast on soft-bodied insects and spiders)
  2. a habitat filled with native perennials, trees, shrubs, and vines that provide nectar attractive to hummingbirds from spring thru fall!

Some Sources of Native Plants in 2024

We are so fortunate to have a number of native plant sales and reputable nurseries in this region.   Be sure to support them.  Here is my post:  Some Sources of Native Plants: 2024.

All About Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

To read more about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds check out my additional post below.  You may also want to print my Ruby-throated Hummingbird Fact Sheet (the reverse side covers Hummingbird Feeder maintenance and gardening for hummingbird info).

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds – Part One: They’re Back

  • my favorite hummingbird feeder (nature centers sell them, as does Amazon)
  • spring nectar plants that have worked for me in the Mid-Atlantic Region to lure hummingbirds to settle in and nest in your yard.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds – Part Two: Summer Nectar – COMING SOON:

  • summer nectar for the Mid-Atlantic Region including many natives and a few non-natives (that are not problematic).
  • proper feeder maintenance during the heat of summer
  • the importance of insects
  • places to bathe

Happy Wildlife Gardening,  Pat

Lose the Lawn, Create a Meadow Instead

Americans have a love affair with the American Lawn!   This unnatural habitat is labor intensive to maintain, hard on the environment (i.e. isn’t green in the true sense of the word), and it benefits little.

Consider creating a meadow instead!  But, what is a meadow?  It may be easier to define what a meadow is NOT: it’s not sterile, it’s not a monoculture; it’s not “needy” of fertilizer, water, weekly mowings, and other pamperings, all of which contribute to greenhouse gasses.

A meadow is a mixture of grasses and wildflowers growing in a sunny, open area. A meadow is a riot of color. It’s diverse, full of many different plants, with as many as 7 different plants (or more) in a 1 foot square – in other words much more intense than your perennial garden. Meadow plants require no water (as opposed to lawns) – except, of course, when seeds, plugs, or plants are first planted.

Meadow plants prefer and can thrive in sterile soils. Meadows are nonpolluting; they do not need weekly chemicals of fertilizers and herbicides. And meadows require no weekly mowing, as opposed to lawns.

Most meadows result from neglect – a time of transition – when a farmer no longer farms, or a lawn is no longer cut, or cattle are no longer grazed there. Meadows are a transitional stage that eventually will be invaded and replaced by shrubs and trees, if not maintained or managed. To keep a meadow a meadow, it does need to be mowed once a year.  And the best time to mow your meadow, if you are also trying to support and benefit wildlife, is in late February or early March.  This annual mowing prevents tree and shrub seedings (planted by birds or windblown) from surviving and thriving and eventually turning your meadow into a forest.

So, what do you say?  Are you ready to LOSE THE LAWN (or part of your lawn) & CREATE A WILDFLOWER MEADOW INSTEAD?  If so, you’ll learn a whole lot more by reading my handouts on this topic, found below (CLICK on underlined text to download Pat’s pdf document).

Pat Sutton’s MEADOW Handout (part 1: pages 1-4) — Updated May 2024

Pat Sutton’s MEADOW Handout (part 2: pages 5-6) 

Of course you want to select native plants for your meadow, so be sure to also read my post (and associated handout) on GARDENING FOR POLLINATORS, which includes tons more helpful information and resources!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Part One – SPRING ARRIVAL

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Coral Honeysuckle

Surging north over a three-month period (from late February through early May), millions of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds depart their winter homes from southern Mexico to Costa Rica and northern Panama. They head north, reach the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and brave the 500 mile-wide Gulf of Mexico water crossing.  If weather cooperates and they’re lucky and strong flyers, they reach the Gulf Coast (Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida).  Refueling, they then head “back home” to where they were born.

Most years Ruby-throated Hummingbirds reach our southern New Jersey garden around April 20th, but don’t seem to settle in until the end of April or early May. This year (2021), the very first NJ sighting was on April 4. Today the mystery of when they will appear (and when we need to get our feeders hung) has been simplified.  Each spring you can monitor Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration north (AND enter your own sightings) on Journey North  and on Hummingbird Central.  Check these two sites each spring when you begin to wonder when to expect your returning hummingbirds.

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird on a HummZinger mini feeder

The Importance of Well-maintained Feeders

What many people do not realize is that, if you hope to attract nesting hummingbirds in the spring as they journey north, you need to place well-maintained feeders in your yard. The reason is simple: our gardens are mostly dirt when hummingbirds first arrive in mid-April, with little in the way of blooms and nectar.

Hummingbirds are looking for a secure source of food and will settle in when they find it. Feeders are just that. Of course you want to keep those feeders fresh like flower nectar, so be sure to clean them at least once a week and refill them with fresh solution when temperatures are pleasant in early spring and late fall.  During periods of toasty hot weather (which is most of the summer) clean and refill feeders every 2-3 days (as soon as the solution begins to look cloudy). Knowing this, you can clearly see that you don’t want to buy the biggest feeder you can find, since you would be dumping un-used sugar water solution every few days.

The proper solution that is most like nectar in the wild is 1 part granulated white sugar (just like you put in your coffee) and 4 parts water. Oh, and don’t try to make your solution healthier by using raw sugar or honey. Both of these can be deadly to hummingbirds; honey and the iron in raw sugar can lead to a fatal fungus disease.  I mix a quart at a time and refrigerate the rest. I own 16 feeders so that I can take 8 clean and freshly refilled feeders out to replace the 8 I’m bringing in to clean.

A hummingbird’s long bill and even longer tongue easily extends to the bottom of a feeder

In the early spring and late fall (or any time hummingbird activity is low), I put just 2 ounces into the feeder; a hummingbird’s long tongue can easily reach the solution at the bottom of a feeder.  Later in the season, when activity peaks, I’ll fill the feeder to capacity (8 ounces).  Sugarcane fields have gobbled up so much important habitat that the last thing I want to do is toss 6-7 ounces of sugar water solution every time I clean and refill a feeder.

 

HummZinger mini (8-ounce) feeder

 My Favorite Hummingbird Feeder

My favorite feeder is the HummZinger mini 8-ounce feeder by Aspects. This feeder is incredibly well thought out (no surprise since Aspects tapped Sheri Williamson, hummingbird expert and author of the Peterson Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America, as a consultant). This feeder is easy to clean (which is A MUST – ditch your artsy, hard-to-clean feeders), has a built in ant guard (just fill it with water and they must go for a swim to reach the solution), the proper solution is written inside the lid  so you can’t forget (emphasizing NOT to use red dye), the design is NOT bee-friendly (bees can not get to the solution because they do not have long bills and tongues), etc.

I place my eight feeders around our one-half acre habitat so that one bossy male can not defend all eight feeders (and flower beds), though he tries. Two hang from our front porch, one from the back porch, one out my office window, one outside our screened porch, one under the Coral Honeysuckle arbor, one at the back of our perennial garden, and one at the back of our woods.  With this many options a female has a better chance of setting up a territory of her own around one of the feeders and nesting somewhere near this secure source of food.

One feeder equates to one bossy male. Two feeders placed out of sight of each other may lure in two territorial males. Three feeders scattered around your yard, some in the front yard and some in the backyard, may lure in a third hummingbird, hopefully a female who will chose to nest in your yard. It is great entertainment watching a male try to defend all of your feeders and gardens, but don’t make it too easy for him or he will be your sole hummingbird.

What few realize is that male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds do not share well with others, even their own “mate” and young. Once a male has mated with a female, he’s done — and off looking for the next available female. So, be sure to have plenty of food in the way of feeders and well-crafted gardens blooming from early, early spring right up until frost.

Nectar (and the solution in feeders) is what powers and maintains a hummingbird’s incredibly high metabolism. Nectar is like a candy bar to a hummingbird, but who can live on candy bars alone? Their meat or protein comes from eating tiny, soft-bodied insects and spiders. So, a pollinator garden full of insects is like a supermarket to hungry hummingbirds.

In May

Our Coral Honeysuckle arbor, May 21, 2020

By mid-May, in my South Jersey garden, many spring perennials have kicked into high gear, so feeders are not the only show in town.  My arbor of lushly blooming Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, is a hotbed of activity.  It blooms lushly in May then continues to bloom all summer and fall long, until the first frost (with fewer and fewer flowers as the year unfolds).

Wild Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, has wandered all over my garden and woods much to my delight and that of hummingbirds.  It is a heavy seed producer, so I collect the seeds once the flower heads dry and scatter them where I want new stands of this hummingbird favorite.

My old-fashioned Coral Bells, Heuchera spp., pull in hummingbirds too.

I’ve planted a Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia, in my woods that the hummingbirds find irresistible.

Another hummingbird favorite in the early spring is the shade-loving Lyre-leaved Sage, Salvia lyrata.  It can be quite a thug, so be careful to plant it where you’d like it to carpet the understory.
Highbush Blueberries and Azaleas are also good spring nectar plants for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

In June

Trumpet Creeper, a native vine that hummingbirds find Irresistible
Our sturdy Trumpet Creeper arbor

In mid-June through July, Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans), Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis), Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata), and Blazing Star (Liatris spicata) all kick in as top hummingbird nectar plants in my garden. Trumpet Creeper, a native vine, can be trained up a dead tree or over a sturdy arbor. There’s nothing more fun than sitting under that arbor and blazing away with a camera as hummingbirds feed and perch, feed and perch, over my head.

Bee Balm is the plant that led me to wildlife gardening forty plus years ago now. It pulls in EVERYTHING, from hungry hummingbirds to hummingbird moths, butterflies, a multitude of bees and wasps, the works! Bee Balm or Monarda is in the mint family and will spread. If you have a patch, share some with a new wildlife gardener and help get them hooked.

With hummingbirds, there is so much to share about these little bundles of energy that I’ll return with additional information in a segment covering mid-summer to late fall.

We hate to see them go, but let’s not think about that right now.  After all it is spring and we have a solid 5 months of hummingbird madness to enjoy.  

Happy gardening and happy hummers,
Pat

Shade Gardening in the Mid-Atlantic

For me shade gardening began after I retired and realized that we had lost our woods to  12′ high Multiflora Rose and Japanese Honeysuckle.  We reclaimed it soon after.  Simultaneously I began gardening under shade trees in our yard, White Pines and a Tulip Tree that I’d planted as tiny saplings 37 years earlier (in 1984) and a large American Holly and Georgia Hackberry that came up when we didn’t mow part of our backyard 44 years ago (in 1977) .  Our last English Setter had died and we no longer needed lawn.  I compiled a wish list of natives I wanted to plant in our newly reclaimed woods and other shady areas.  Friends generously gifted me with many divisions from plants in their yards that they had had success with.  Since then I’ve done the same for others who are embracing a more layered landscape.

I certainly don’t miss the lawn and neither does Clay who does the mowing.  In  15 minutes or less he’s easily mowed the pathways and is done.  Our shade gardening provides a great deal more habitat, so we find even more nature moments to savor.  This layering of plants has certainly increased the joy factor in our yard.  And I’ve fallen in love with many, many new-to-me shade-loving natives.  As Thomas Rainer says, “more life brings more life.”

I shared a program (via Zoom) on “Shade Gardening with Natives” for the Native Plant Society of NJ’s Southeast Chapter on Monday, November 15, 2021 at 7 pm.

To learn more about shade gardening be sure to read my  handouts below:

Pat Sutton’s Shade Gardening  Handout – Resources (Click on the underlined text to download and print)    This handout includes resources (great books that have helped me) and the many websites with “Native Plant Finder” tools to help you generate a list of plants suitable for your area and site.  It also has suggestions for sites to visit to see shade-loving natives in the landscape.

Pat Sutton’s Shade Gardening Handout – Native Plants  (Click on the underlined text to download and print)    This handout includes a list of shade-loving natives for the Mid-Atlantic, many of which I’ve planted or have growing in my woods or other shady spots on our property.

Pat Sutton’s New Jersey’s Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines That are Beneficial to Birds  (Click on the underlined text to download and print)   This list is annotated with the  number of NJ bird species that feed on fruits, seeds, cones, or catkins of each.

Native Plants for Sale at 5 South Jersey Ace Hardware Stores

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Butterfly Weed, one of 3 milkweeds in the sale

Hi Gang,

Chris Clemenson of Clemenson Farms Native Nursery shared this exciting news:

“For years those of us who are part of the Native Plant Society of NJ have been trying to encourage retailers to recognize the need to offer native plants for the public. Please pass on the word to all your native plant friends that several of the ACE hardware stores in southern NJ will offer native plants for sale and at very reasonable pricing during a Memorial Day Weekend sale (and afterwards as long as supplies last).”

“Joe and Cindy Smith own the ACE hardware stores in Vineland, Egg Harbor Township, Northfield, Brigantine, and Galloway. Cindy is a bird enthusiast and has been offering lots of bird related products for years. Cindy attended one of Pat Sutton’s lectures and really got turned on to the idea of natives (she has been installing natives to transform her yard into a native bird habitat ever since). She’s passionate about getting the word out on the need to plant natives.”

“Please encourage folks to go and buy plants at these stores this weekend (and as long as supplies last) AND to be sure to thank the store manager for offering native plants!”

For their Ace Hardware 2015 Memorial Weekend Sale the following stores will have 3 different milkweeds (Butterfly Weed, Common Milkweed, and Swamp Milkweed), Wild Blue Indigo, and Coral Honeysuckle (grown by Clemenson Farms Native Nursery, so we know these plants are safe and neonicitinoids free) for the amazing price of $4.99. One other grower is supplying natives for this sale (not sure of their plant line up). In June these stores will host a Father’s Day Sale including more of Clemenson Farms Native Nursery plants including Seaside Goldenrod, New England Aster, Joe Pye Weed, Little Bluestem, Red Bee Balm, and Spotted Horsemint.

Here are the 5 ACE Hardware Stores in southern NJ where these native plants will be for sale during their 2015 Memorial Day Weekend Sale (and afterwards as long as supplies last):

  • Vineland Ace Hardware, 2330 Dante Ave, Vineland, NJ 08361 – 856-692-8800
  • Egg Harbor Township Ace Hardward, 2254 Ocean Heights Ave, Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234 – 609-653-8001
  • Northfield Ace Hardware, 231-301 Tilton Road (Tilton Shop Ctr-Unit 1-B), Northfield, NJ 08225 – 609-272-3132
  • Brigantine Ace Hardware, 3116 Atlantic Brigantine Boulevard, Brigantine, NJ 08203 – 609-266-7782
  • Galloway Ace Hardware, 322 S Pitney Rd, Galloway, NJ 08205 – 609-748-7400

There are more sources of native plants in 2015 than EVER!   Access my “Some Sources of Native Plants: 2015” HERE (updated 4-25-15) to learn of other sources.

Happy Gardening,
Pat

The Living Landscape, by Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke

Hot off the press — a NEW book:

The Living Landscape,
Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden
by Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke

My copy arrived earlier this week and I’m enjoying the book immensely. The authors walk us through and help us understand the layered landscape, something that so many gardeners don’t address, consider, or even know to think about.

I was guilty of it for years and am trying to rectify the situation by making some changes:

  • incorporate layers under the Tulip Tree that shades our house with understory shrubs and shade-loving wildflowers
  • incorporate shrub layers in my back side yard where previously lawn had reigned
  • and my biggest project has been our reclaimed woodland where previously Multiflora Rose grew so thick that there was no understory except for this non-native rose. The woods have given me immense pleasure as I experiment with new understory trees, shrubs, wildflowers, ferns, and grasses. I continue to be amazed by all the native plants that come up on their own (either planted by wildlife or from seeds in the soil that couldn’t survive previously because of the Multiflora Rose). For example, friends gave me 2 baby Willow Oaks and since then I’ve found 5 more that came up on their own.

If you’re intrigued,be sure to get Tallamy & Darke’s new book and digest it. It’s a gem!

Happy Gardening!

Pat

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Eupatoriums in the Wildlife Garden

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Monarch nectaring on Joe-pye-weed with Boneset in the foreground – TWO great Eupatoriums

If you’re looking for some fun plants to add to your wildlife garden, seriously consider the Eupatoriums:

1.  They are stunning 2.  A selection of them can cover a good part of the growing season 3.  They are pollinator magnets 4.  Monarchs LOVE them and Monarchs need all the help they can get

 

Enjoy my latest post on Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens Eupatoriums – Butterfly Magnets to learn  more!

Black Cherry vs Bradford Pear

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Cecropia Moths are one of 456 butterflies and moths that lay their eggs on Black Cherry

Black Cherry, Prunus serotina, is one of THE most important trees for wildlife.   I’ve watched 53 different species of birds feed on the fruits, including Black-throated Blue Warblers.

Learn why Black Cherry is a far better tree to plant than Bradford Pear by reading my latest column on the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens website (where over 20 of us contribute educational and informative columns to guide and encourage wildlife gardeners, so they don’t make the same mistakes we did).