It’s been a rockin’ year with hummingbirds and butterflies

It’s been a rockin’ year with hummingbirds and butterflies

Although the hummingbirds appeared on April 3, 2022, the first Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen here on May 18 feeding on Rockin Deep Purple Salvia and has been in the park ever since. (Norman Winter/TNS)

As I write this, I’m on day 211 of hummingbirds feeding at The Garden Guy’s house, marking the longest date on the calendar I’ve spent with them, until tomorrow and hopefully the next day. I don’t use nutrients, just plants. This year has opened my eyes to their plant choices.

The Rockin Blue Suede Shoes Salvia was a favorite of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails which were present in very good numbers. (Norman Winter/TNS)
Rockin Fuchsia Salvia has been a big hit this year with hummingbirds. Here, the partnership of Queen Tut sedge, fuchsia rock sage, and ruby-throated hummingbird creates some garden magic. (Norman Winter/TNS)
The Rockin Blue Suede Shoes Salvia was a favorite of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails which were present in very good numbers. (Norman Winter/TNS)
This Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding on Rockin Fuchsia on October 21 shows good weight gain during migration to the tropics. (Norman Winter/TNS)

This year started out fast and prosperous, then on March 13, the temperature dropped to 21 degrees, when almost everything was in bloom. But things quickly picked up, and the first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds appeared on April 3rd.

They started the days feeding on Superbells calibrachoas, Perfecto Mundo Orange, azaleas and petunias. The freeze slowed the flowering of Rockin Salvia, but by mid-May, birds were being seen on Rockin Blue Suede Shoes, Rockin Deep Purple and Rockin Fuchsia Salvias.

I am in my fourth year of growing with this sage in zone 8a of Georgia. They all reached 4 feet tall quickly, so this year I had more freedom to prune back to keep them in the allotted space. I use almost all of them behind other bloomers like lantana and gombrena, and even behind containers on a rock wall.

Although they are certainly beautiful, they are not the showiest plants in the garden thanks to their spiky texture. However, from a habitat perspective, they rank among the most important plants anyone can grow in the garden. Since May 18, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds have appeared.

Seeing the hummingbirds now is also a bit special since we had a very early freeze on October 20th, when the temperature reached 30-31 degrees. It has taken a toll on a lot of flowering plants, but my Rockin’ Salvia hasn’t dropped a single petal. In fact, on the two mornings that the roof was covered in a layer of ice, hummingbirds were seen feeding as if it were another day in the tropics.

Looking back at the 2022 growing year, there were plenty of memorable moments with all of our rockin’ salvia plants. Rockin Deep Purple was the first to bloom and brought out hummingbirds in May.

This year the eastern leopard tails were present in large numbers; They also wanted sage nectar. A large yellow and black striped butterfly feeds on Rockin Blue Suede Shoes, an unbeatable complementary color scheme.

In a way, this has been the year of rockin’ fuchsia salvia. This is where I took many of my best photos. Without thinking, I planted Queen Tut’s papyrus, where she became Sylvia’s most attractive partner (who knew?). The arrival of the hummingbirds, acrobatically maneuvering for nectar, created a “wow” moment for anyone looking through a close-up lens.

Most Rockin salvias look like salvia guaranitica hydrids with larger tubular flowers. Rockin Playin’ the Blues salvia is different. It is a cross of Salvia longispicata x S. farinacea with smaller flowers. This sage, which won the Dallas Arboretum’s Best Pollinator-Friendly Perennial award, is always unbeatable.

As if the park man was aware of the prize, he noticed that it seemed to be a favorite among young children, like the gray locks, and the colorful locks with red bands. These butterflies fly quickly and erratically, and can be difficult to follow and photograph due to their small size.

While The Garden Guy is still counting hummingbirds, I hope you’re making plans to put all the Rockin Salvias in your garden next year. I can tell you that pollinators, including regional hummingbirds, will be happy about it.

Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker, and author of Powerful Flowers of the South and Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden. Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.

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