A Connecticut Hummingbird Garden’s Colorful Palette
The verdant property hums with activity.
Not all gardens have an agenda beyond being beautiful. But what meets the eye is only part of the picture for this three-quarter-acre property. When the homeowners purchased the 1885 Queen Anne Victorian in 2011, they had a very specific playlist for the landscape. Although they did not stipulate a specific color theme or request a style, they made only one requirement when contacting Lindquist Design Associates: They wanted to host hummingbirds.
Over the years, Wendy Lindquist has added plants to the property that might thrill native pollinators of all types, but it started with hummingbirds. Those fierce little feats of aerodynamics are something of a fetish for the homeowners. “We spend a lot of time in the garden,” they admit, “and we love watching the antics of the hummingbirds. They come faithfully every year.” Living in the area for 30 years, they knew from previous experience that their garden could make a difference for these pint-sized creatures. Meanwhile, Lindquist became savvy about delivering delectables to make every square foot serve up square meals for the nectar-needy crowd.
Back in 2011, these homeowners were way ahead of what became a national obsession to ramp up the ratio of pollinator-friendly plants in landscapes. “There was not a lot of pollinator support at the time,” Lindquist discovered, but her instincts led to the installation of a plant-driven palette dense with lushness. Because flowers are the focus for a hummer, the garden is colorful—but you don’t enter the landscape and see only red. Salvias, cardinal flowers and cypress vines are part of the brew, but honeysuckles of all shades are going to thrill hummingbirds. In fact, vines are a big part of the garden, as well as being crowd pleasers for other pollinators.
Privacy was important to the homeowners, prompting Lindquist to install clipped yew hedging to create intimate rooms within the space—and the hedging provides shelter for winged visitors of all descriptions. Not accidentally, the landscape is harmoniously laid out. “The space has a European influence,” Lindquist explains, citing the secluded dining courtyard, a rose-bowered side passageway, an alley with raised vegetable beds—which the homeowner designed personally—and other intimate spaces nestled into the land, making it feel much larger than its actual footprint.
Most importantly, the lushness is sustained. Fond of roses and hydrangeas, the property is heavy on those shrubs. But the roster of woody plants also includes calycanthus, edgeworthia, callicarpa, hamamelis, cotinus, syringas, amelanchiers and viburnums. Design savvy was imperative every step of the way. “Strong vertical points enrich and enhance the sense of expanse while also providing visual tension between contrasting forms,” explains Lindquist. Meanwhile, being organic is critical when playing the good host.
As Lindquist studied the specifics of hosting wildlife, she began to explore the property’s potential to serve specialist pollinators. Many insects are “generalists”—meaning they glean the advantages of diverse plants. But certain “specialist” insects focus specifically on host plants. Lindquist discovered that an insect’s favorite fodder is often declared in its name. So, the mining bee (Andrena ziziea) is attracted to golden Alexander (Zizea aurea), and the sweat bee (Dufourea monardae) depends on beebalm, alias monarda. The list goes on.
The end result is fulfilling and functional on all levels. With wraparound gardens that progress from one instance of splendor to the next thrill for the senses, the homeowners do not want to miss a moment. Meanwhile, birds, bees and beneficial bugs of all descriptions are equally transfixed from earliest spring onward.
The print version of this article appears with the headline: Humming with Activity.