Hardy Mums

In the UK, hardy mums are mothers with great resiliency, but here in Michigan, they’re colorful fall flowers. Mums can be planted as perennials, which will come up year after year, but require a lot of summer maintenance to keep them looking full and bushy. That’s why many people here use them as fall annuals. We plant them in September and October, when summer annuals and perennials have begun to fade and look scraggly. This year I bought a flat of small mums for about $15 that had tightly closed flower buds, and planted them in my window boxes and flower pots. It took awhile for the plants to fill out and grow, but now I have a beautiful riot of colorful mums that look fresh from the greenhouse.  Local greenhouses here usually stock mums  into late October and early November, in all stages of bloom, so I’ll often buy a couple late in the season and use them indoors for a cheery burst of fall color, or for Thanksgiving decorations, if I can still find good ones that late in the season. 

The other hardy mum.

Hardy mums prefer cool temperatures, which is why they thrive long after summer flowers are gone. They will remain alive until there is  a hard frost. If planted in the ground, they can be cut back and will come up the next year, but usually never look as good and full as the first year they were planted. Container mums can be thrown in with yard waste compost once done blooming.

Many people pair hardy mums with pansies, another cool weather plant. The  squirrels in my yard religiously dig up any fall pansies I’ve ever tried plant, so I’ve given up on them, but  the mums also look great alone or can be paired with late ferns, perennial sedum, or pumpkins and gourds. Hardy mums come in brilliant colors of yellow, orange, rusty red, maroon red, purple, light yellow and white. I like the yellow, reds and purples best, which make a nice compliment to the fall landscape.

Brilliant! (© Huffygirl 2011)

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 © Huffygirl 2011

Weekly Photo Challenge: Flowers

The fuchsia is a tropical plant native to Central and South America. It was introduced to Ireland by travelers and has thrived there because of the temperate climate. I found these fuchsias growing in the wild near Bantry Bay, but saw them everywhere in Ireland. They grow either wild or cultivated, as bushes 4-5 feet tall. At home, I have trouble getting them to survive as an annual, and have for the most part, given up trying to grow them. Guess I’ll have to visit Ireland again if I want to see some really great fuchsias.

© Huffygirl 2011

Hummingbirds: Birds who don’t know the words

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochu...

Image via Wikipedia

I was going through my bird feeder stuff this week. I cleaned out the summer detritus: all the random seed leftover on the ground, the seeds that have sprouted into weeds, cleaned up the pole (why, birds will be pooping on it again tomorrow?) and generally getting things ready for winter birds. While pulling out the suet and bark butter for the winter birds, I came across, once again, the hummingbird feeder and food. Straight out of the “hope springs eternal” department, I have owned at least four hummingbird feeders. The first one was a spaceship type – flat with a rimmed perch. the idea was that the birds would perch on the edge and bend over the feeder to sip the sweet nectar. It was hard to clean so I gave away that one and got The Mini Feeder. Perfect for one bird – it had a tube for the liquid with one port for feeding. I used that one until the cap on the port broke. I replaced it with one just like it, but something was defective in that one and it leaked. My newest hummingbird feeder is a pretty standard one – a tube for the liquid that screws into a round perch with four feeder ports. It is perfect – it doesn’t leak, is easy to open and clean. So what’s the problem? No hummingbirds. EVER. Yes, that’s the hope springs eternal part. In the several years that I have been putting out various incarnations of hummingbird feeders, I have never seen a hummingbird. Well, of course, except for the first one. The first year near the end of the summer I saw one hummingbird approach the feeder. It looked like a giant bug. No one believed me but I managed to click a picture. Since then, I’ve been dutifully filling, hanging and cleaning out hummingbird feeders almost every year, waiting for the rest of the flock to appear. Well, there’s been some years where I actually gave up, but I always came back. Just like a child who chants “I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies…” I do believe in hummingbirds. And I believe that they are out there – we just can’t see them. Not that they’re invisible, they are just likely to be at the day lilies, petunias, Echinacea, coral bells, red lilies and every other flower I’ve planted that is guaranteed to attract hummingbirds. I even saw one once at the coral bells. Of course no one else was around and no one believed me…

So every spring, I dutifully get the hummingbird feeder out, mix the nectar and put it out. And nobody comes. At first I keep refilling it with fresh nectar, but eventually give up and let it hang there with the same old nectar for weeks. Finally, I clean it out, defeated for that year and put it away, until the next time. 

Sometimes helpful people feel sorry for me and give me tips on feeding hummingbirds. One person told me the h-birds don’t like other birds, so I should separate it from my seed feeders. Didn’t make a bit of difference. Someone else said that if only I would plant Monarda at the base of the hummingbird feeder, they would come. Zilch. Plus I had a useless pot of Monarda at the end of the summer. Same deal with red petunias one year. And making my own homemade nectar, instead of using the packaged stuff.

So what’s so bad about hope springing eternal? It’s what makes Charlie Brown kick the football every fall, try to fly his kite every spring, and makes me put out feeders every year for birds who don’t know the words.

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