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Q: I'm looking to experiment and elevate my vegetable gardening with some unusual plants. Any recommendations?

A:There are a number of great crop of choices available to gardeners looking to add some excitement to their traditional gardens. My recommendation would be to explore the world of colorful heirloom varieties of tomatoes, peppers, beings and more. There are hundreds of varieties of unusual, colorful vegetables for the garden that will surely excite you. Visit line sources such as Seed Savers (www.seedsavers.org) to discover hundreds and hundreds of exciting heirlooms you never knew existed.

Another great way to add excitement to vegetable gardening is to experiment with growing your crops in a variety of different containers. Try straw bale gardening, as well as gardening in pots and containers of different shapes and sizes.

Q: I saw an unusual oriole that was brown in color. Any ideas? It was being chased by normal Orioles from my feeder.

A:Many people are not aware that, in Wisconsin, we actually have two common oriole species. The familiar, bright orange and black coloration of the Baltimore oriole is well known.

The other species is the Orchard oriole. Slightly smaller, the orchard oriole replaces the bright orange with a rich, reddish maroon coloration. The adult male is a stunning bird.

Orchard orioles prefer more open areas with smaller trees than the Baltimore oriole. Orchards, for example, make great habitat as many orchard trees tend to be shorter in stature.

Q:What's the best way to feed hummingbirds?

A:Although feeders are popular in our area, the best way to feed hummingbirds is to provide a variety of natural nectar sources. This includes blooms that will provide a source of food throughout spring, summer into early fall. Feeders are simply a supplement to naturally occurring food sources.

Some of the best plants to attract hummingbirds include native perennials such as bee balm, cardinal flower, columbine and trumpet honeysuckle, along with annual bloomers such as many of the salvias and sages, petunias, cardinal climber, cosmos and others.

Ask the experts

BY ROB ZIMMER


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