Debbie Arrington

Seeds: Fuchsias, an old favorite, keep birds humming

Scott Humphrey recommends a sure way to attract more hummingbirds into your garden: Hang a fuchsia.

Humphrey, of course, is partial to this graceful bell-like flower. He’s a longtime member of the Sacramento branch of the American Fuchsia Society. That local group will host its 78th annual show and sale today at Shepard Garden and Arts Center in Sacramento’s McKinley Park.

A former nurseryman who now works for the state’s Parks and Recreation Department, Humphrey planted at his Rancho Cordova home a garden full of flowers that hummingbirds love.

“Outside the window, I can hear the hummingbirds going at it right now,” he said last week. “They love all sorts of tubular flowers such as salvia and agapanthus. I don’t have any feeders; I don’t need them. There are flowers in bloom year round.”

In particular, Humphrey sees hummers flocking to his fuchsia baskets that dangle flowers temptingly in the birds’ paths.

“The hummingbirds are so spectacular,” he said. “They add visual movement to the garden. They’re a lot of fun to watch. They’ll go everywhere, high or low – they find the food. But it’s safer for them if the flowers are 5 feet off the ground; there’s less danger from cats.”

Some fuchsias seem to attract more hummers than others, Humphrey observes. “The safe choice for hummer favorites would be single fuchsias with long stamens such as Gartenmeister or Angel Earrings. The birds are able to push through the blooms. They’re like long single tubes full of nectar. Those varieties grow well here, too; they can take the heat.”

The society will offer both those varieties for sale from among more than 25 varieties that have been grown especially for the event.

“We almost always sell out by noon,” he said. “So, we grew more plants this year. We should have about 750 plants, 200 more than last year. But still, come early.”

All the plants are locally grown, a huge plus for fuchsia lovers. “They’re healthier plants, already acclimated to our area,” he said. “Most nurseries bring their fuchsias in from coastal areas. You get that plant home and it has a hard time adjusting, especially in summer. You’ll have much better success with these plants, and they’re already blooming like crazy.”

By popular request, the sale will feature several Sacramento Bells, a favorite fuchsia for local gardeners.

“It’s one of the few varieties people always ask about,” Humphrey said. “Hummingbirds love them, too.”

‘Landscaper to the Stars’

The life’s work of garden designer Dan Bifano sounds as glamorous as his clients. From his home base in Santa Barbara, the longtime rose expert has created picture-perfect gardens for such high-profile Californians as Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Michael Eisner and Julia Child. Oprah – who nicknamed him “Dan the Rose Man” – introduced him to millions of her TV viewers as her go-to garden guy.

Keeping those demanding customers as happy as their roses is not an easy balancing act. How does Bifano do it all? Find out during a special presentation at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center. Hosted by the Sacramento Rose Society, the event is free and open to the public.

As “landscaper to the stars,” Bifano has made his presentations to scores of gardening groups. During his Sacramento talk, Bifano will share photos of gardens he has created to suit the sometimes mercurial desires of his celebrity clients. (What does Oprah really want in her roses?) He’ll also offer his tips on how to make roses the stars of any garden.

Bifano fell in love with roses because they offer so much bloom for relatively little effort. Even during drought, roses still produce nine months of almost nonstop color in California gardens.

“When adding roses to your landscape, think impact,” Bifano told The American Rose magazine. “Don’t plant one bush where you can plant three, and don’t mix colors. Instead, plant multiple bushes of the same variety, guaranteeing a spot of color that truly shines. Place roses where you can appreciate them from both near and far – near for their intoxicating fragrances and afar for their glorious mass of color.”

As for favorite roses, Bifano is partial to “Barbra Streisand,” a fragrant lavender hybrid tea and the namesake bloom for one of his favorite clients. And yes, Streisand the singer has plenty of “Barbra” roses in her garden. Bifano made sure.