Thursday, January 12, 2012

It's nesting time for our resident Anna's Hummingbirds!

Hi there Children's Garden fans,
Have you ever noticed the gigantic rose that's growing just behind our Children's Garden interpretive sign with the whimsical garden map? That amazing plant is an ancient Rosa 'Cecile Brunner' climbing rose, that each spring and summer is covered in masses of fragrant pink flowers. But that's not even the best part of its life! This rose has the honor of being the favorite perch for our resident Anna's Hummingbirds, and is "home base" for their annual courtship displays which are fantastic to watch. Their most elaborate displays usually take place in January and February, but last fall they were also happening in October! Perhaps you've even seen the incredible aerial dives and swoops yourself, in the Children's Garden or elsewhere.... these little birds are not very afraid of humans and will swoop right over your head if you are standing close to the object of their affection!

Because this large climbing rose is such an important site for these year-round residents, it is likely to also contain a nest, which is not visible from the outside of the plant. We haven't ever seen a nest, but that doesn't mean it is not there... because Hummingbird nests are very tiny- made from lichen, moss, and stolen spiderweb strands... so they can be completely camouflaged in an ancient old rose like this. It could be inches from your face and you would miss it, since it would just look like a part of the plant.

This wonderful element of "our" Cecile's life came about unintentionally on our part, but has been a very happy accident that instantly became a huge asset to the Children's Garden. When this large rose was donated to the Children's Garden in 2003, we originally left the old woody canes and deadwood on it because we had no structure for the rose to climb on and wanted to give its few new canes something to drape over. But now it is such a reliable place to watch Hummingbirds, it has become one of the best "hot spots" in the garden for children and families who attend Nature Explorers Camps, special events, or just regularly stroll though!

You may have seen Rosa 'Cecile Brunner' in other gardens, trained onto an arbor or wall of a house, and carefully pruned each year to keep only the largest, young canes. If you take a good look at our Cecile, you can quickly see that we do not take care of it in this way. Our Cecile is purposefully kept "under-maintained", because its beauty as a home for the Hummingbirds has transcended its rather free-form appearance. Yet despite the minimal pruning we do each year, it has remained very healthy and blooms its head off every spring and summer! So we'll continue with that maintenance plan for the foreseeable future, and rejoice in the unique life that it nutures.

If you're in the garden one of these days soon, you might see some of the courtship displays going on- Anna's Hummingbirds typically start nesting in February, so now is the time for the males to impress a potential mate with spectacular aerial displays- just don't stand too close or you might get a little tap on the head as they swoop by!

Speaking of being in the garden, our programs and activities are starting up soon, with much to choose from for children and families to attend, or for volunteer participation. Visit for all the details!

Happy New Year from the Children's Garden Committee!