Living Ind

Birds and Blooms

by Mary Tutwiler

Celebrate Acadiana's natural beauty with festivities highlighting fall flowers and migratory hummingbirds.

We're used to swarms of giant mosquitoes here on the Gulf rim, but the current airborne invasion is much more agreeable. Thousands of ruby-throated hummingbirds are gearing up for their winter trip to central and south Mexico by sipping their weight, every day, in nectar. "Right now, there's an explosion of ruby-throats," says Nature Station Director Bill Fontenot. With the rainfall we've experienced all summer, plants are lush and the hummingbirds have raised two or three broods this summer. So numbers of ruby-throats have tripled, filling gardens and flocking feeders. The tiny birds are vibrantly active, diving into flowers and fighting for position at backyard feeders, and people are seeing bazillions of them, as well as some Rufous and black-chinned hummingbirds, all over town.

On Sept. 15, the height of the fall migration, Lafayette will celebrate its seventh annual Hummingbird Day. The day begins early, at 7 a.m., when local hummingbird expert Dave Patton will catch and band ruby-throats at the home of Rose and Jack Must (105 Hal Drive). At 10 a.m. Nancy Newfield will be signing her books, Hummingbird Gardens and Enjoying Hummingbirds More, at the Musts' business, Wild Birds Unlimited.

While nectar feeders are important to help the birds put on the needed weight to carry them on their long migration to Mexico, it's backyard plants that provide the primary draw. Fontenot says the top six varieties on his hummingbird plant list are turk's cap, tropical sage, anise sage, cigar plant, fire spike and shrimp plant. Raintree Nursery will have some hummingbird plants available at Wild Birds Unlimited, but the best time and place to shop for backyard tried and true plants is at the Lafayette Parish Master Gardeners Fall Plant Extravanganza.

Plant stores often don't carry the sweet smelling old fashioned tussy mussies that grew in granny's garden. These plants have been passed along by cuttings and seeds, usually with helpful hints on when and where to plant them. The Lafayette Parish Master Gardeners, who propagate backyard beauties like milk and wine crinum, yellow "dancing girl" ginger, night blooming cereus, and even roadside wildflowers like joe pye weed are holding their fall plant sale on Saturday, Sept. 15, as well. Starting at 8 a.m. till 1 p.m., visitors can bring a plant for the Plant Swap and chat with LSU Extension Agent Stuart Gauthier about plant problems. Shop for fall blooming perennials, as well as a plethora of gingers and bushes to attract those other winged harbingers of fall, butterflies.

Hummingbird Day kicks off Saturday, Sept. 15, at 7-9:30 a.m., 105 Hal Drive, and later from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Wild Birds Unlimited, 137 Arnould Blvd. Call Rose Must at

993-2473 for more information. Lafayette Parish Master Gardeners Fall Plant Extravangaza runs from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Ira Nelson Horticulture Center, 2206 Johnston St. Call 237-1813 for more information.