Friday, September 01, 2006

Hummingbird Flower

The Hummingbird Flower’ is a welcome addition to our garden. We acquired 5 of them in 1 gallon cans last year, spaced them about 2.5 ft. apart. They filled in well in two months. They’ve blossomed prolifically since just after planting in early July. Heaviest bloom comes in late summer and into Fall. The sprawling growth is thick enough to keep out most weeds, even in its first season. Its drought tolerance is evident too, as our sporadic waterings here in the summer-dry Pacific Northwest has stressed some other new plants but not this one!

Hummingbirds are commonly said to love this plant, however that is not the case here. I’ve seen them occasionally checking them out, but they much prefer Cape Fuchsia or even Jupiters Beard! Perhaps the cats dissuade them from feeding fron the low flowers.

This selected form was originally found by David Salman of High Country Gardens in Santa Fe. It won the 2001 Plant Select award. Its native to the Rockies and other mountains from north Texas to Wyoming. It is hardy to USDA zone 5-9, borderline in Zone 4. Less than a foot high, it can spread over time to several feet across, rooting as it goes.

We have growing elsewhere the pink form of California Hummingbird flowers,Zauschneria californica “Solidarity Pink”, the California Hummingbird Flower which is perhaps more drought tolerant than garrettii. However, its flowering season starts a little later. Some of it has never been watered this year, especially the largest patch growing in the roadside gravel. Its growth habit is very similar to “Orange Carpet”. The two colors don't mix well in the landscape, but there are plenty of flowers that will. They do make a good groundcover under or in front of medium to tallish perennials like penstemons, lilies or some of the daisies. Blues or purples can mix well with either of these two, and the orange can handle yellows as well.

In hotter climates than ours, like the Southern California desert or parts of the Old Southwest, shade is recommended for both species. If you are up North, give it sun, but down South consider at least some shade. In hot dry locations, shade is a must. Some water helps it keep blooming, especially in hot dry gardens.

Botanists have reclassified all Zauchnerias as Epilobiums, or as a type of fireweed. These changes will be slow to make it to gardening circles, as from a landscape standpoint fireweed and hummingbird flowers are distinct. The original Zauschneria garrettii ‘Orange Carpet’ is correctly according to the botanists Epilobium canum spp. garrettii ‘Orange Carpet’, while Z. californica is now E. canum spp. canum. You will see many sources using the form cana, which correctly matches Latin gender for Zauchneria, but to match Epilobium use canum.

John Muir mentions passing large patches of Zauchneria while heading towards Black Mountain Glacier near Yosemite in his 1888 book titled “Picturesque California”. Old references like this are the main reason for remembering superseded botanical names.

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