The small north garden has become a favorite bird habitat. The spiky foreground plants are asparagus ferns. The orange flowers are Iochroma coccinea, beloved of hummingbirds, and perching birds also favor the plant. The ground cover is probably oxalis, which I should remove before it takes over. The yellow grass is Stipa arundinacea, which is reliably attractive in our area. Against the fence on the right is Victorian Box (Pittosporum undalatum), which the birds planted.
Tag: Iochroma coccinea
The iochroma is flowering, and that means the hummingbirds are back. I like to photograph them, in part because this particular iochroma is right outside my study window, and it makes a nice diversion from my literary work, and also because it’s challenging to freeze the speedy little hummers in photos.
But what kind of hummingbird is this? I’m not the bird identifier that Charles Hood and Jonathan Franzen (my companions on a Catamaran catamaran a while back) are. I get frustrated because bird books tend to feature adult males. I suspect this one might be immature, or maybe even a female. In any case, try as I might, I cannot find a reference to California hummingbird that has a yellow patch on its head.
Any birders out there?
Dormeuse, amas doré d’ombres et d’abandons … — Paul Valéry
(The sleeper, a golden mass of shadows and abandonments …)
Thanks to the neighborhood cat lady, we have an abundance of more or less free-range felines in our area. One found a cozy place to nap in the Norfolk Pine container (which probably had a nice layer of compost on top). The catnapper was soon joined by a more vigilant sibling.
In the front left is Protasparagus densiflorus ‘Meyeri’ (foxtail asparagus fern). At the right is a handsome speciment of Stipa arundinacea (New Zealand Wind Grass), which does marvelously well in this area, even during the drought. (I recently saw quite a few of these planted along the bay walk in Pacific Grove near Monterey.) Along the fence is true jasmine, and behind the Norfolk Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) in another container is Iochroma coccinea, with its tubular orange flowers.
This hummingbird loves the iochroma. Iochroma is a Central or South American plant unrelated to fuschia but similar in appearance. The flowers can be blue, purple, red, yellow, or white. It does quite well in our region.
The iochromas I have are Iochroma coccinea, which I bought as seedlings at Annie’s Annuals in Richmond. Annie’s says it comes from Peru and is “totally tropical,” but the American Horticultural Society says it is from Central America (if anyone can shed light on this please provide info in the comments). Annie’s also says it blooms spring through fall but this year mine stopped blooming sometime in July, possibly as a result of our terrible drought. I thought they might be done for the year, but as this picture taken August 19 (date of this update) shows, they are back now with another blooming season:
Annie’s charges about $10 for a seedling in a four-inch container. But the plant can be propagated from greenwood cuttings in late spring or from semi-ripe cuttings in summer. It should be top-dressed in spring. Pinching young plants will enourage bushiness.
This one is in a container, so it requires water once or twice a week in the dry season. I have another in the ground, which is larger — at least nine feet tall — and requires no maintenance at all.
All parts of the plant are poisonous. But not to hummingbirds.