Wooing the winged

A baby hummingbird puffs up to look bigger as it sits on a

A butterfly’s wish list might look something like this: a couple
of snapdragons, some verbenas, a sprinkle of sunflowers and
– need you ask? – a butterfly bush.
Color and fragrance are deciding factors for many people when
choosing flowers and plants to include in a garden, and with enough
attention to detail, what you plant can attract a number of
garden-friendly critters such as butterflies and hummingbirds.
A butterfly’s wish list might look something like this: a couple of snapdragons, some verbenas, a sprinkle of sunflowers and – need you ask? – a butterfly bush.

Color and fragrance are deciding factors for many people when choosing flowers and plants to include in a garden, and with enough attention to detail, what you plant can attract a number of garden-friendly critters such as butterflies and hummingbirds.

Along with adding an extra splash of color and beauty to a garden, such creatures aid in transferring pollen from flower to flower. The majority of flowering plants depend on pollinating insects to facilitate fertilization.

Although bees are the most common pollinators, creatures such as moths, flies, wasps and even certain types of beetles also help pollinate. Many people, though, would rather entice attractive and non-threatening pollinators to their gardens, namely butterflies and hummingbirds.

It’s not so much what they see but what they smell that appeals to butterflies, said Lupe Sanchez, a garden specialist at West Side Nursery in Gilroy.

“(Butterflies) don’t see colors the same way we do, so fragrance is the biggest thing to consider,” he said. “Plants that have a sweet smell work well.”

Abelias, abutilons, escallonias, lavender and rosemaries are a few examples of plants that appeal to both butterflies and hummingbirds, Sanchez said.

Others include the hebe, a flowering shrub with purple blossoms, and honeysuckle, a fragrant vine.

Aptly named, the butterfly bush attracts butterflies as well as hummingbirds and grows in several different colors including blue, lavender and pink.

Color is more of a consideration when trying to attract hummingbirds. The critters take a particular liking to all shades of red, said Frances Muro, an employee at Paidl Gardens and Accents in Hollister.

“They’ll go after something hanging that is a shade of red, even a pink or orange,” she said. “Red flowers work, or even yard decorations.”

Kniphofia uvaria, informally known as “red hot poker,” is a good choice for hummingbirds, as are California fuschias, coral bells and delphiniums, Muro said.

Hummingbirds and butterflies are common to the area, she said, and generally appear more often in the spring and summer.

“They like open, sunny areas, so this is the time of year we usually start seeing them,” she said. “They also like water. A lot of people buy hummingbird baths. They’re like bird baths, but they’re made for hummingbirds.”

The baths should be kept shallow with about a quarter- to half-inch of water. Hummingbirds also like to snack on ants, small beetles, small flies and spiders, so those insects in gardens also might attract the pretty pollinators.

Feeding areas should be in sunny, non-sheltered spaces, Muro said.

The best chance to spot butterflies and hummingbirds in the garden is early morning, as the cooler air brings out the flowers’ fragrance, Sanchez said.

But the creatures are attracted to more than just flowers. Citrus trees, silk trees and eucalyptus bark also work well because of their strong smell, and some non-flower scents, such as clean clothes hanging on a clothesline, also attract hummingbirds.

Gilroy resident Ann Jaszewski planted a coral-colored abutilon theophrasti, a type of lantern maple, in her backyard about three years ago.

Although she didn’t know it when she planted it, Jaszewski said the maple grew into a good-sized bush that now attracts a number of hummingbirds throughout the year.

“I can see the pack from my living room window, and I watch those little darlings bury their beaks. I just love it,” she said.

If a blooming season comes and goes without even a single visit from a butterfly or hummingbird, Sanchez’s advice is simple: Don’t give up.

“If you have a bunch of plants together that are a different mix, you’ll have a better chance of attracting them,” he said. “Just keep it at. Keep the garden nice, and keep it pruned.”

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