Hummingbirds like it hot

On the Trail



Some gardeners have a color bias; mine happens to be against orange. A big exception to this snobby attitude is the California poppy, but then its flower is no ordinary orange, being a ravishing, radiant blend of silken sunset hues on petals that flare with such animated grace.

The orange of cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) is a bit too garish for me. This climbing shrub, unless well managed, can become rambunctious, gangly, woody. Still, on one hot afternoon, I found myself loading one into my car for the ride back to rural Agoura and a potential planting.

I was struck by the plant’s form, disciplined rather than straggly. It was a young, robust plant that rose on four strong stems heavily clothed in light, bright green foliage with attractively serrated leaf margins.



About two dozen of its trumpet shaped flowers blared their over-the-top festive orange in my rearview mirror as I drove. By the time I pulled into the driveway I was reconsidering my ability to embrace such a hot and hardto blend-in color in a garden of subdued pastels. It would be a short drive back to the nursery where I’d recollect my addled senses and exchange the cape honeysuckle for a more suitable, demure match.

I placed the cape honeysuckle in the driveway as I unloaded other goods from my hatchback. It was a steamy, still afternoon and all the birds that usually provide such a sweet, nonstop racket had evidently taken a rest. There issued only a familiar buzzing, the sound of hummingbird wings.

As I reached to place the cape honeysuckle back in my car, a female Anna’s hummingbird appeared out of nowhere and zeroed in on the refund-bound plant’s flower complement.

I backed away. The little bird and I seemed to be the only living creatures out in that heat; the world seemed deserted. Where had the hummingbird been? How did she spot this one particular plant sitting on hot asphalt in a driveway inches from my car? Ignoring me, the little nectar guzzler poked her head inside each and every dangling, orange flower—she did not pass up a single sip from these garish receptacles.

It was easy to divine a message in her appearance and performance. No way was that plant leaving the premises now. It would serve her well during nesting season, being handy and convenient.

Eventually her little ones would find their way to its tasty nourishment— the lure being the flowers’ loud, vivid color.

Unlike me, hummingbirds like it hot. And the bolder the color, the keener the attraction for them. I was about to flunk big time until the hummingbird mysteriously materialized and provided me with yet another life lesson in how nature’s got it all figured out.

Glasser is a freelance writer. Reach her via email at