Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vivid, Red, Hummingbird Happiness

Looking for the quintessential red flower for hummingbirds? When referring to Lobelia cardinalis, Mrs. William Starr Dana (1897) said, "We have no flower which can vie with this in vivid coloring." This is a New World wildflower. The Europeans got it from us. My first cardinal flowers came from Sandy Mush Herb Nursery. The variety with green leaves is the most likely to winter over. Around here, this plant is given all the space it wants. With Ed's beautifully prepared beds, the plant self seeds sometimes. We watch carefully for it when we weed.

Cardinal flower has long been Ed's favorite. The flowers seem to him like a source of light. Success with this plant has been elusive. Every spring many of the bright green crowns are frozen out. This spring he tried dividing some crowns. Each crown contained several crowded plants that had forced themselves up out of the ground. The plants from these spring divisions are the best yet. Taller and bearing more flowers, they have made an impressive display!

Last weekend Amy and Ed hiked at Minnewaska to see the new growth in an area recently burned. The recovery from the forest fire is truly amazing. In places it is hard to see if the fire actually reached the carriage road. One such area sported many cardinal flowers. The cardinal flowers had attracted numerous black swallowtail butterflies. The combination of the red flowers and the black butterflies made quite a show!

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