Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hummingbirds and the Plants that Attract Them

Hummingbirds are among us!  They have been very active in our garden this spring and they've made frequent appearances throughout the day, sampling the current blooms of our Galvezia and Salvia. We've laid out a palate of nectar rich plants that provide hummingbirds with a reliable food source throughout the year.

We encourage gardeners to remove the feeders that supply white sugar and water and, instead, plant a few of the many Spring-blooming plants that hummingbirds love.

California has tons of local nurseries and mail order nurseries where you can find hummingbird plants. Here are a just a handful:  Bay Natives Nursery, Capitol Wholesale Nursery, Las Pilitas Nursery, Mostly Natives Nursery, Native Revival Nursery, Yerba Buena Nursery

 Galvezia speciosa 'Firecracker' (Island Bush Snapdragon)

Galvezia 'Firecracker' makes for a great vining plant alongside any light colored wall.  Growing this plant on a trellis allows the flowers to grow vertically, making feeding easier for hummingbirds, and keeps them from being prey to the local house cats.

Galvezia 'Firecracker' is an evergreen perennial shrub/vine that flowers throughout the year, but displays its most flowers during the cooler months of December through May.  'Firecracker' is more compact than the Galvezia speciosa sp. and is recommended for smaller spaces. After a year and a half, this 1 gallon plant has grown six times its size since it was planted.

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                      Galvezia speciosa sp. (Island Bush Snapdragon)

This is the larger species of Galvezia.  Care should be taken to prune often and prune heavily to keep this shrub/vine under control, as its growth habit is fast spreading and profuse.  Just (1) one gallon plant can grow up a trellis in less than two years, if allowed. 

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 Salvia greggii 'Raspberry' (Autumn Sage)

Although listed as Summer-blooming, our warm California weather has this Salvia greggii 'Raspberry' perennial blooming from March through November, giving hummingbirds a source of nectar for months. This photo was taken on March 19, 2014 and is one of the first available sources of nectar for hummingbirds this season.

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 Arctostaphylos (Manzanita) ~  Photo by Las Pilitas Nursery  

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Mahonia nevinii (Nevins Barberry) ~  Photo by Las Pilitas Nursery

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                 Ribes sanguineum glutinosum (Pink Flowering Currant) 
                                Photo by Las Pilitas Nursery

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Plants that bloom during the hotter seasons such as Agastache 'Raspberry' (Hummingbird Mint), Buddleja (Butterfly Bush), and Salvia clevelandii (Cleveland Sage) are drought tolerant with flowers that are long lasting.

                              Agastache 'Raspberry' (Hummingbird Mint)

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                                       Buddleja (Butterfly Bush)

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                              Salvia clevelandii (Cleveland Sage)
                                    Photo by Las Pilitas Nursery                                                         
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Las Pilitas Nursery in Santa Margarita, California has a great collection of photos of hummingbirds that visit their garden, with a list of plants that hummingbirds frequent during their daily route searching for nectar sources.

Visit this link to the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley, California for more hummingbird specifics.

If you would like books and field guides for even more comprehensive information paired with beautiful photos, visit our bookstore BrandTaproot @ .

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sow Seeds in Spring for Summer Vegetables

With this lovely spring weather in California comes the excitement of planting seeds for spring and summer vegetables and flowers. What better way to spend the weekend than in the dirt, turning rows of composted soil and building trellises for peas and beans to come.  Now is a great time to plant seeds, whether from those saved from last years crops or a simple purchase online from organic heirloom & open pollinated sources.  While there are plenty of vendors with fine quality seeds, we suggest some of our favorite seed sources: Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa, Bountiful Gardens in California, and Seeds Of Change in California.

If you have an Amazon account, you can also support 'Taproot Garden Design' by purchasing from our online store 'Brand Taproot' by visiting our site and clicking on the 'seeds' section @

If you are unable to find what you are looking for, you can also visit these seed companies directly:
Seed Savers Exchange -
Bountiful Gardens -
Seeds Of Change -

We've already begun our yearly garden tasks and are providing a well composted environment for our seeds. Our menu this spring and summer includes (and in no means limited to) seeds from Seed Savers Exchange:

Bean, Purple Pod Pole Organic
(Phaseolus vulgaris) Heirloom variety discovered by Henry Fields in an Ozark garden in the 1930s. Plants climb vigorously to 6' and are extremely productive. High quality, meaty, stringless 5-7" reddish-purple pods that blanch to light green. Pole habit, snap, 68 days.
Tomato, Gold Medal
(Solanum lycopersicum) Introduced as Ruby Gold by John Lewis Childs of Floral Park, New York, in his 1921 catalog. Ben Quisenberry renamed it Gold Medal and listed it in his 1976 catalog: “The sweetest tomato you ever tasted. The yellow with streaks of red makes them very attractive and a gourmet’s joy when sliced.” Our finest bi-colored tomato—orange-yellow splashed with tomato pink. Winner of the 2008 SSE Tomato Tasting. Indeterminate, 75-90 days from transplant.
Cucumber, Longfellow Organic
(Cucumis sativus) Introduced in 1927 by Jerome B. Rice Seed Company of Cambridge, New York. Preferred by market growers as a “straight pack” sort for shipment to high grade markets. Green-black tapered fruits are 12" long by 2½" in diameter. 62-80 days.
Bean, Climbing French Organic
(Phaseolus vulgaris) This was once the most widely grown French climbing bean in England according to The Beans of New York (1931). Lilac flowers, 4-7" stringless pods. Excellent fresh eating qualities. Shiny dark purple seeds. Pole habit, snap, 65-75 days.
Pea, Asparagus
(Lotus tetragonolobus) (aka Winged Pea) A legume not related to either asparagus or peas; most likely from northwest Africa. Mentioned as early as 1734 by celebrated gardener and botanist Philip Miller. Beautiful red flowers on low growing plants that spread laterally along the ground. Uniquely flavored pods are best steamed whole when small. Thrives in poor soil. Edible podded, 60-75 days.
Squash, Burgess Buttercup Organic
(Cucurbita maxima) Introduced in 1932 by Burgess Seed & Plant Co. of Bloomington, Illinois. Buttercup has set the benchmark over the years for all other small winter squash. Flattened dark green turbans with a distinctive button on the blossom end. Typical fruits weigh 3-5 pounds. Super sweet brilliant orange flesh with very fine eating qualities. Rind is thin but very hard, medium length keeper. 85-100 days.