My kitchen has a large, south-facing window that looks out into our yard. Three years ago, I removed some overgrown shrubs and debated what to plant in their place. This was the first house I owned that actually had full sun shining brightly on a garden space! I enthusiastically decided to plant a perennial garden. This border garden originally started with Pink Coneflowers (Echinacea) and Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) closest to the house, Cranesbill (Geranium Sanguineum) and Daylily (Stello De Oro) in the middle and some spring blooming Candytuft Snowflake (Iberis Sempervirens) in the front.
I love perennial gardens. However, I learned very quickly, that I did not have the time or the energy to keep these gardens in deadheaded, weed free shape! As I mentioned, all my prior gardening experience had been with shade loving plants. These actually required very little to keep the beds looking nice. A little mulch, a little Preen and my shade gardens were good to go. Now, however, I had a large border garden with a lot of flowers that needed regular maintenance and I was not up to the task! So, my Pink Coneflowers began to take over the garden because I was not deadheading their faded blooms! Just as I began to regret my perennial garden and thinking I should have planted more shrubs, I started to see bright yellow Goldfinches and butterflies flocking to my garden!
Right in the middle of my Pink Coneflowers, I placed a shepherd’s hook and hung a basic, 2 cup hummingbird feeder with a red bottom and perches. Initially, I was rather lazy about keeping the feeder clean and full with the sweet nectar little hummingbirds crave. I soon realized that I had created a little garden oasis for Hummingbirds, American Goldfinches and even butterflies! I often stand at my kitchen window and marvel at the comings and goings of these tiniest of birds and beautiful yellow feathers of my finches. What pure joy my garden has provided my birds and my family!
How to attract and feed your Hummingbirds
I purchased an inexpensive, glass hummingbird feeder that is identical to the feeder in the article. Make nectar by using a mixture of ½ cup of sugar with 2 cups of water. Heat the sugar water in a glass Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave for 4 minutes. Let your nectar cool before filling your feeder. Hang your feeder amongst red, pink or purple flowers, such as Pink Coneflowers, that will attract your hummingbirds. I put my feeder out in early April and make sure it stays full and clean. North American Ruby Throated Hummingbirds (the most common in the northeastern United States) start their migration south by late August or early September. I keep my feeder out and full until October, just in case I have some stragglers from Canada that need to maintain their strength for their southward journey.
How to attract and feed your American Goldfinches
Goldfinch’s favorite food is Nyjer (thistle) and you can find a variety of Goldfinch feeders at any local store that carries feeders. I have not yet hung a feeder because I have many Goldfinches feeding happily on my Pink Coneflowers! The American Goldfinch likes to perch on the blackened cone of the faded Pink Coneflower and feed on its seeds. If you use a feeder to attract your Goldfinches, keep the feeder out all year because these birds do not migrate. Do not cut back your Coneflowers in the fall and you will continue to attract your yellow friends. You might wander where your lovely finches have gone when you no longer see their bright yellow plumage. You may believe you are feeding sparrows in the winter, but male Goldfinches turn to a brownish yellow in the winter and do not show their brilliant yellow plumage again until the spring!
Planting your Pink Coneflowers
Pink Coneflowers (Echinacea) are easy to grow in a border garden. They also thrive in meadows, small gardens or containers. This allows you to create your oasis in any available area you have for viewing. Your single requirement is full sun. Coneflowers prefer light, loamy soil but as long as your soil is well drained they will grow freely. Once they have taken hold, they are fairly drought tolerant and deer resistant, a really nice attribute for lazy gardeners! The key to keeping your Goldfinches dining in your garden is to let your flowers go without deadheading their faded blooms. So, enjoy your beautiful flowers throughout the summer and just as they begin to fade and lose their beauty, the showy Goldfinch arrives just in the nick of time!
You can plan a small garden of Pink Coneflowers in any area you have available, large or small. Make sure you can view your garden oasis from a window, so you can enjoy your feathered friends while they visit. I have been quite taken by the friendliness of both species of birds. I have actually had Hummingbirds come in for feeding and upon realizing their feeder just ran dry, turn to face the window and hover with a look that said, “Hey, I’m a little hungry here!” Of course, I immediately cooked up some fresh nectar and replenished their feeder so that my little friends know I care.