I am presently enjoying several weeks in my beloved Italy. There is so much to write about but I think I have to give first place of honor to the Island of Ischia, which sits just off the coast from Naples. We arrived in Naples, via Rome, on a Thursday evening and after six days catching up with jet-lag, eating LOTS of mozzarella (among many other good Italian dishes!), and going to Bahia Blanca, a favourite beach on the other side of Gaeta, we took the ferry over to Ischia. This is an island formed by volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago.
The first thing that visitors to Ischia notice as the ferry approaches the island is how green and fresh everything is despite the heat. Because Ischia is a volcanic island it is quite mountainous and its slopes are a rich green as they come down to meet the various towns and villages. Almost every garden is rich in flowers which at the moment are in full summer bloom.
All of the streets are lined, usually on both sides, with tall rhododendron trees dripping flowers in every shade of pink imaginable. Bougainvillea in all its many shades spills over walls, climbs fences, and trails up and down the walls of houses as though an artist had dipped many brushes into different colors on his palette and splashed them here and there in wild abandon. Hibiscus offer up their beautiful shallow open trumpets as though about to create some romantic perfumed symphony, and huge pregnant balls of mauve and blue blooms top the stems among the lush green foliage on large hortensia bushes. Everywhere is a riot of color.
But color does not stop with God’s amazing creation. The residents of Ischia have added their own artistic touch to their island. Houses are painted in every pastel tint available. Shops are decorated with colorfully decorated tiles or painted murals and a wild profusion of products hangs in doorways, spills out onto the sidewalks, or fills windows in such a way as to entice the passerby to stop and peruse and, perhaps, buy. My heart and soul are filled with color since being here in Italy and Ischia has played a principal part in that.
I created my garden to be a place of joy and happiness. Somewhere that I could retreat to and rest. A sanctuary away from the chaos that is the world outside. I created it to be full of God’s natural beauty with flowers and plants and small items of garden art.
I have worked hard to make this creation but it is work that I enjoy and find to be very therapeutic. Gardening is good physical exercise and therefore is a great workout for my body. It is also wonderful spiritual exercise because I usually combine plenty of prayer work as I dig, plant, prune, and weed. So the garden offers me the chance to nurture myself on the physical as well as the spiritual level.
For me there is nothing like being close to God’s creation to fill the heart with happiness and the soul with joy. Watching green shoots emerge from seeds sown several weeks earlier is like having access to my own personal miracle show! And when the plants grow and flowers bloom, filling the garden with perfume and color, I experience a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment like no other.
However, what I did not plan or expect was the incredible daily show that the hummingbirds put on for us. In past years I have certainly been aware of the presence of hummingbirds in my garden. But this year has been an amazing experience. It is almost as though they have made my backyard their official playground.
I have a wonderful plant, which I know as Orange Trumpet Vine, that grows along much of the border fence in the back yard. It also grows up and around the mailbox out front, and climbs up one of the columns on the front porch, trailing over towards the other column about six yards away.
When I made the major renovation to the garden this spring, I “transplanted” the trellis archway from the back yard and made it the focal point of the newly enlarged front flower bed. With the help of my friend Linda I managed to transplant the original Orange Trumpet Vine (I grew it from seeds from the island of Ischia in Italy) that grew all over the archway. Thankfully it tolerated the move well and is now healthily flourishing in its place of pride out front.
The hummingbirds love the nectar in the glorious globes of trumpet blooms that hang richly from the Vine, and so I have always seen them in the summer gorging on their sweet treat. But I also put a new hummingbird feeder out back and would see them from time to time there. I moved this feeder a couple of weeks ago and had my husband hang it on the back wall of the house fairly near the window near my desk computer.
I noticed immediately that there was great activity at the feeder on a very frequent basis during the course of the day. Richard and I also realized that the birds seemed totally unfazed by us being on the other side of the glass and he was able to get some great video and photos of them.
Then it occurred to us that we were hidden from them because Richard had applied a mylar screen to the windows to cut down on heat in our office. So we began to spend quite a bit of time at the window watching these amazing creatures really “up-close-and-personal”. They are nothing less than miracles.
Over the last few days we have keenly observed them. Several times we have noted there were about seven or eight of them zooming in and out of the garden, up into the trees of the pine wood behind our house, then swooping down to “dive-bomb” each other off the feeder. This evening in particular we watched them as we ate dinner in the lanai and noticed some very interesting behavior.
One hummingbird would zoom down, seeming to go the feeder. But she would pull up short and just hover there as though suspended from an invisible thread – a minute angel-like figure with wings spread, beating furiously. Then a second bird would swoop in and hover about a yard above the first. And they would both just hang there, in space before suddenly zooming off up into the trees.
A little later another couple came buzzing across the yard like two F-16’s on a training flight. They twisted and turned, mirroring each others movements until suddenly one turned to face the other in mid-flight and they seemed to do a short dance in mid-air. I am not sure if all this activity is part of mating behavior or if they are just being naturally playful.
Whatever the reason, Richard and I are thoroughly entertained. These delightful creatures are truly amazing to watch. This evening among the many we were treated to the company of a handsome male. As he moved around his ruby-red throat coloring was quite spectacular. I am very happy that my garden has become Hummingbird Haven.
Check out these HD videos of the hummingbirds feeding.