Seeing Anew

Monday, October 5, 2009

After many weeks away, it’s wonderful to be back among good friends.

Mt. Everest, second from right.

The last posting on this blog was from Bhutan. From there, we journeyed to Nepal. It was a rather brief visit because of a cancelled flight, but we managed to view Mt. Everest from a small plane and then wander through the country’s 210-acre national botanical garden on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Our guide said none of his clients had ever asked to see that garden before, and he quite enjoyed it as well.

This week, I’ve been strolling through Fairchild with a fresh appreciation of the glorious horticulture.  I’m finding new clumps of Sobralia sessilis orchids along the allee, bright hybrid Spathoglottis orchids in the tropical fruit pavilion, and butterflies galore. A great American egret posed just beyond the Visitors Center one

Chinese hat plant attracts

afternoon, and hummingbirds are patrolling the area around the Chinese hat plant, Holmskioldia sanguinea, near the butterfly garden. If you sit for a few moments on the bench next to the information kiosk, you’ll hear the hummers clicking before they swoop in for a quick nectar fix. Monday, a ruby throat spent several minutes resting, clicking and tasting the air while perched on a leafless oak twig just above the kiosk.

Powderpuff also pulls in the

Plants that are reliable magnets for hummingbirds also include firebush, Hamelia patens, and red powderpuff, Calliandra haematocephala.  The winter-flowering Chinese hat plant, firebush and the powderpuff are super easy to grow. All of these plants are for full sun, and seldom require extra irrigation. I give them a modest amount of 8-2-12 palm fertilizer a couple of times a year. My hat plant needs a hard pruning other year or it tends to insinuate itself into the trees on the other side of the fence. The firebush can be shaped into either a shrub or a small tree. My powderpuff is in a tight space, so I lightly nip back the branches from time to time. It’s a great winter gesture to provide for hummingbirds, and with these three plants in the right location, you may even be able to observe them enjoying your hospitality from a window.