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Frenchie, a year around resident Anna’s hummingbird, sits on top of our 10 year old buckeye and watches all of the comings and goings at Oaktown Native Plant Nursery. We could call him the nursery’s spirit animal being small in size but energetic and focused. A few years back, a pink flowering current Ribes sanguinium v. glutinosum volunteered behind the pot-washing station and has now grown to a healthy very floriferous shrub. Throughout the year, Frenchie nectars on the flowering plants at the nursery. But this time of year, the early blooming pink flowering currant is Frenchie’s favorite nectar bar. This is lucky for us nursery folk as it makes the tedious task of washing and sterilizing pots less so. You’ve heard of television, well try turning on the hummervision!
Right now if you go for a late winter hike you will see sprays of pink flowers on the leafless stems of this locally native deciduous shrub adorning many of our forest under-stories. Or if you are inland a bit you may see the close cousin, chaparral current, while hiking on more exposed slopes. Pink flowering currant is pollinated by the hummingbirds as well as native bees and usually successfully sets loads of round purple fruit in almost grape-like clusters. The fruit is astringent and not sweet enough to our taste but loved by birds. All of these attributes make this medium sized shrub a large sized addition to local habitat. If that isn’t great enough, this is a super easy shrub to grow in the garden.
If you wish to create hummingbird habitat in your yard to help both residential as well as the migratory species, plant hummingbird favorites with a bloom period covering as much of the year as possible. For example manzanita and pink flowering currant are early bloomers (Dec. – Mar.) and CA fuchsia is a late bloomer (Aug. – Oct.). Then you can fill in with other plants blooming through peak season (April – July). Typically, plants hummingbirds go to for nectar have tube, funnel or urn shaped flowers. Red is thought to be the most attractive color but I’ve seen hummers nectaring on all flower colors. Try our website Plant Finder to get a list of other hummingbird attractive native plants. To learn more about back yard hummingbird habitat go to the Audubon Society’s page