Tag Archives: monarda

Mid-June Musings

Garden View In JuneThe garden at this point in June seems like an entirely new one—so different from the early spring palette. A salmon-orange Gladiolus from years ago brashly turned up in the Southern border today. I almost admired it for being so bold, but in the end I cut it and placed it in a nice vase indoors. Beebalm is in full bloom, Echinacea is maturing in many parts of the garden and last year’s Allium ‘Drumstick’ is back. All are attracting bees. A hummingbird visited the beebalm yesterday. There have been a few other hummingbirds this year, but now that the beebalm is blooming perhaps there will be many more.


A Foxglove mystery may be solved. This Foxglove has been in the garden since 2008 or 2009 and I thought it had caramel in the name, but never could find the tag. The coloring is creamy when the flowers first appear. Inside the flowers are yellow with reddish-brown veins and a hairy lip. Today I researched it a bit and hope I have it identified properly now. Could this be Digitalis ferruginea (‘Gelber Herold’, ‘Yellow Herald’, Rusty Foxglove)?


Today the weather was clear, hot and very humid, reaching 93°F. before severe thunderstorms passed through this evening. The winds overturned a bench and a flowerpot, but otherwise things seem ok for us. Some of our neighbors are reporting trees down, cable service lost and even roof damage.

Irises and Spiderwort

Iris Border

Iris Border

Despite the heat I chose today to dig up some of the dozens and dozens of Spiderwort that have aggressively expanded throughout most of the borders. I had to dig up many irises in order to get to the roots of the Spiderwort, so now there is a lot of work to replant some of the irises and find a good home for the rest. Fortunately the high temperature tomorrow will be a nice 81°F. so the work should be enjoyable. The irises have needed division for years, but actually they bloomed incredibly well this spring anyway. The amount of Spiderwort I managed to dig today is just a small portion of the total I want to remove.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

This white one looked so innocent and beautiful this morning. Actually this particular clump has not spread like the others, but it is getting very large.

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

Garden Fauna

A variety of birds fill the garden with color and song. Fireflies or lightning bugs have been out in the evenings for several weeks. Frogs sing frequently and incessantly, though I have not seen one in the garden. A couple of little bunnies are nibbling Thyme in the meditation circle. No sign yet of the 17-year cicadas.

Mid-July Musings

Gardenia jasminoides ‘Chuck Hayes’

‘Chuck Hayes’ Gardenias began blooming at the end of May this year and since then a few occasional blossoms have continued to appear. This particular bush lost several limbs last week when the top of a neighbor’s Loblolly Pine came crashing down during a severe wind and rain storm. The jolt seems to have encouraged a few more flowers.

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’

Temperatures are heading toward 100 today. A few individual heat-loving plants are going strong, but for the most part the garden is shutting down. There are no lush drifts of color or interesting plant pairings to note.

There are still plenty of bees around enjoying such delicacies as Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes,’ Penstemon mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ (Beardtongue), Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint) and Salvia ‘Blue Sky.’

Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm)

Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm) began flowering on the last day of May and though it looks stressed from the heat, blooms continue to appear. For the past three weeks hummingbirds have been regular visitors.

Goldfinches dart among the tired and ragged seed heads of Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower). For a while longer I can justify leaving the drying coneflowers for the birds, although their sprawling stalks (and most of the garden in general) have become very unsightly. This garden is definitely at its best in Spring.

Shifting Palette

Western Border With Gladioli, Liatris, and Echinacea

With Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) now in full bloom, the western border is shifting away from the mostly blue color palette of spring. Similar transitions are occurring all over the garden as brighter colors, rich enough to compete with the sun’s bright glare, are beginning to dominate.

Western Border With Gladioli and Echinacea

Western Border With Gladioli and Echinacea

Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm)

[Unfortunately the garden’s beautiful red-orange daylilies became deer food this weekend. They were ruined  along with the garden’s secret hoard of phlox paniculata.]

Plants of white and silver work well as counterpoints against deep, bright hues such as these strong reds. Silver leaved plants such as perennial Dusty Miller, Artemisia and Lavender are useful in that they can make colors stand out, but they also can provide a restful tranquility to the garden.

Dusty Miller


Some white gladioli are already open; the dense spikes of white Liatris spicata ‘Alba’ (Gayfeather) should bloom in another 7-10 days; and the white delicate-looking but sturdy annual, Lobularia hybrid ‘Snow Princess’ (Sweet Alyssum), is filling out nicely and should make a good ground cover near the Monarda for the entire summer.

Sweet Alyssum

Drought-free Vignettes

Gladiolus and Liatris Spicata

Today it was announced North Carolina is completely drought-free for the first time in two years.

This could change, as surely many hot summer days are ahead, but this remarkable spring with its generous rains has been a welcoming one for flowers in this Chapel Hill garden.

Gladioli and Liatris spicata have grown strong and tall and Hemerocallis (Daylily) looks well nourished. Even native and drought-tolerant perennials such as Monarda and Echinacea are noticeably healthier, with richer foliage and color.

This evening temperature is 79°F, still quite sunny with blue sky.

All In Good Time

Minty fragrant leaves of Monarda didyma (Scarlet Bee Balm) had emerged by the first week of January, but unlike so many plants that bloomed early this year, Monarda is beginning to flower at exactly the same time as last spring. I have been watching and waiting for several weeks now for the first red flowers to appear, but for this eastern North American native yesterday was soon enough.

Notes On The Garden At Memorial Day

Northern Border

Temperatures reached 87 degrees and the day felt quite humid and summery. The borders appear full and lush, a tribute to the power of adequate rainfall; however, the first flowering period of many plants is past, so deadheading and trimming are on the agenda for this week.

Southern Border

There has been little work done in the garden for the last two weeks, but that must change. The garden is in transition and is very much in need of attention. Echinacea, Gladioli, Liatris and Daylily are replacing Iris, Lamb’s Ear and Tradescantia.

Liatris spicata ‘Alba’ (Gayfeather)

Shasta Daisy clumps will be covered in bloom any day. Meanwhile Meadow Sage should be cut back to encourage more blooms. Nepeta may need shearing soon as well.

Northern Border, Meditation Circle

Monarda and Lantana are teasing with a bit of color today.

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)

Lantana camara (Common lantana)

This weekend in town I came upon a large and beautiful planting of Baptisia and Autumn Joy, all in full bloom. In this garden all three baptisias lost their flowers suddenly this year after a just a short bloom time, but the foliage remains healthy and green.

Baptisia australis (blue false indigo)

Hylotelephium telephium ‘Herbstfreude’ (Autumn Joy)

Paths in the meditation circle are in some disarray lately. The pine nugget mulch being used this spring is too lightweight to stay in place when rains come. Also the mexicali ‘Pike’s Peak Purple’ Penstemon has sprawled over quite a bit and requires staking again. Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ is so much better behaved and retains its upright place, (although its self-sown seedlings need to be removed soon).

Meditation Circle

Meditation Circle

The annual Angelonia ‘Blue’ in the meditation circle has begun to grow now that the weather is hotter.

Angelonia ‘Blue’

There will be plenty of tasks to keep this gardener busy this week but with an abundance of flowers blooming and the scent gardenia wafting through the air, it should be mostly delightful to spend time in the garden.

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Passionate Blush’ (Butterfly Gaura)

Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

January Winds Down

On this fifty-seven degree sunny afternoon, a mild breeze lifts the fragrance of Daphne odora wafting into the air.

Held up by a very cold winter, last year the hellebores began blooming by February 19 and continued through June 20, 2011. This winter they began blooming a month ago on December 30, 2011.

With its scent noticeable for a few weeks now, the aromatic Monarda didyma (Bergamot, Scarlet Beebalm) is growing. Beebalm is native to this area.

Monarda (Scarlet Beebalm)

Another native, Cercis canadensis L. (Eastern Redbud), is volunteering under the back steps, at least I think this is a redbud.

A Volunteer - Redbud?

Magenta Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion) will be back in the garden this year thanks to a neighbor who shares my passion for these old-fashioned flowers. The garden is full of white rose campion grown from seed, but for some reason the magenta ones, which had been passed-along many years ago by a dear cousin, had disappeared. Rose campion are not native but generally do well in this climate, reseeding easily.

Rose Campion

Blooming In Mid-September Part 2

A walk around the garden yesterday revealed so many interesting blooms for mid-September, I wanted to continue documenting the state of the garden as Autumn approaches.

Cottage Garden Feeling Along the Southern Border

Salvia ‘Blue Sky,’ a “bring-along” plant from the former Wave Road garden, sometimes spreads too much for its surroundings, but it is easily manageable. Reaching about 5 feet tall, it brings height and a cottage-like feel to the garden to the southern section of the border.

In the same area an old-fashioned sweet pea is paired with the ‘Blue Sky’ salvia evoking a nostalgic effect. This pairing occurred through happenstance, rather than planning. The sweet pea also made its way here from the Wave Road garden.  It was one of many “pass-along” plants from a dear cousin.

Not blooming, but worth a mention here while visiting the southern border, is this year’s new evergreen privacy hedge. The five ‘Blue Point’ Junipers installed in late February are growing well. They were chosen because they are deer-resistant and drought-tolerant and this seems to be the case. After these junipers were planted, the fence was added also as part of the garden renovation project. It is hard to remember how bare this area looked before these improvements.

A few feet down the border is a small stand of Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue.’  This salvia blooms well when given plenty of water and recents rains have brought out a plethora of deep richly-hued blue flowers.

Tanacetum vulgare (Common Tansy), a pass-along plant from a former work colleague, has a pretty little yellow flower this week.  Skin contact with tansy causes a rash. A non-native it also is fairly aggressive and is difficult to remove once it spreads.


The heat and drought set in just as the red gladioli should have bloomed this summer. They dried up quickly.  Apparently this one bid its time and waited for more moderate conditions. Discovered too late to bring inside, the gladiolus hid itself and is leaning into a large group of woody-stemmed chrysanthemums, which will have yellow blossoms in mid-October.

A surprise Monarda (Bee Balm) in the side garden contributes a spot of deep red next to an underperforming Pink Muhly Grass.

To Be Continued

Mid-September Blooms will be continued.

July Flowers

Rainstorms swept through the region this week, missing this garden more times than not. Big splats, soft mists, ominous thunder, but often it was not even damp under the trees by the end. The flowers seem revived nevertheless and the first of the Cleome (Spider Flower) and Canna opened.

There is a lot of activity in the borders. Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) is popular with a great variety of bees, moths and other insects. Hummingbirds regularly visit the Monarda (Bee Balm) while American Goldfinches enjoy Verbena Bonariensis.

Unfortunately deer jumped the new fence this week to nibble on the daylilies and to devour a container of ornamental Sweet Potato Vines, putting an end to thoughts of keeping the daylilies and even reintroducing Phlox paniculata ‘David’ to the borders.

Among the interesting blooms in the garden this week are:

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Irish Eyes’
Shasta Daisy
Salvia ‘Blue Sky’

After A Brief Rain

Some quick showers passed through mid-afternoon yesterday, first bringing large, heavy drops, but ending with a soft sunshower.

Views Of The Late June Garden

Gone is the lush, verdant freshness that characterized the garden in spring.  Summer has arrived.

High temperatures and lack of rainfall are taking a toll on the garden’s charm and beauty as many plants begin to dry and yellow. The grass is browning quickly.

Though the garden has peaked for this year, there remain a few spots of interest.  One such spot is a borrowed view: a neighbor’s striking row of sunflowers add a happy whimsy.

Closer to home, spikes of Liatris Spicata ‘Alba’ contribute interesting texture and plantings of Shasta Daisy, Monarda, and Echinacea add drifts of color, but the garden definitely is losing its overall cohesiveness.

Part of this year’s garden renovation is to evaluate the garden in every stage, through every transition, and to decide how to improve the plantings, extend the blooming period.  Finding success in redesign will allow the garden graceful ways to peak, rest, and recover throughout each season.

In the meditation circle Angelonia angustifolia (summer snapdragon) provides dramatic color, especially the Angelface® Blue.  Ten more angelonia, purchased at a great sale price from Southern States, were added to the labyrinth last Friday.  They are a lighter shade, Wedgwood Blue, but should contribute blooms until the first frost.

The Rudbeckia Hirta ‘Irish Eyes’ has formed buds and will soon add some bright yellow at the back of the west border.

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A Piedmont Native – Bee Balm

Monarda (Bee balm)

Monarda didyma (Bee Balm) began blooming in the garden this week and hummingbirds found it right away.

Native to much of eastern North American, this perennial grows in full sun to about 4 feet tall, has square stems and fragrant, tubular red flowers.

Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Monarda
Species: M. didyma

June Vignettes

June arrived as temperatures are approaching, but not yet surpassing, historic records. Yesterday’s 96 degrees forced the tip of the tall digitalis (foxglove) to simply curl over, leaving the plant in the shape of a shepherd’s crook.  Later in the evening it had straightened itself to it’s usual dignified, stately form.

Predictions calling for temperatures to reach near-100 today swayed me to break my anti-watering stance this morning. The new shrubs and perennials especially need a bit of nurturing against this heat for a while longer. Besides, spending early moments in the garden is one of the nicest ways to enjoy the serenity of the space, while providing an opportunity to make mental notes of the accumulating garden chores.

Bees, butterflies, birds, blooms and scents make the garden a special place. Monarda (Bee Balm), Blue Sky Salvia and gardenia are the latest flowers to open in the garden.  I knew the gardenias had opened before I saw them, with their unparalleled fragrance wafting through the early morning air; monarda smells wonderful in its own minty fresh way.


In early spring first the lenten roses, then the daffodils and spirea dominated the garden. By mid-April the first bearded iris had opened. Now, three and a half weeks later, a few irises, along with the old-fashioned rose and the clematises, remain in bloom.  Take a quiet stroll around the perennial beds and it is easy to notice the garden again is in transition.

Verbena bonariensis

A verbena bonariensis is blooming and echinacea (purple coneflower) are beginning to open.

Several foxgloves are forming their complex flowers. Nearby an ‘Irish eyes’ rudbeckia already has reached two of its expected five feet.

The monarda (bee balm) also is tall and seems primed for a big display of red and fragrance.

A soft gray mound of artemisia accents the border and a perennial Dusty miller is creeping through the garden. Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) will soon add its bright reddish-orange color to the blue palette that has predominated the garden in early spring.


The very tips of the white tubular flowers of Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (Beardtongue) are becoming visible.

These two penstemon are planted inside the meditation path forming a wall at one of the turnaround points.


One of the small pink yarrow is just beginning to open among the lamb’s ears. Rising only 10-15 inches, it has a lacy flower and a dark green, feathery-soft foliage.

Lavender will soon be adding its beautiful color and unique fragrance to several locations. The lavenders responded positively to severe pruning in February.


A Garden Highlight

An exciting highlight is the single bloom on the peony recently added to the garden, Paeonia ‘Pink Parfait.’  Although its planting tag indicated a June bloom, it was ready yesterday without regard to the calendar, as was the gardener.

Paeonia 'Pink Parfait'

Paeonia 'Pink Parfait'

Changes Bring Chores

As the focus transitions away from roses and irises there are many required tasks this week that will help keep the garden looking nice. The faded iris blooms and the bloom stalks need to trimmed back to tidy up, although the leaves need to remain for several months before being trimmed back to 6 inches in a fan shape. Is this the year the irises will finally get divided?

Rose Campion

The southern path is full of white rose campion, but none of the favored magenta-hued rose campion survived the winter.  Deadheading is a must if they are to continue to look attractive and to keep them from self-sowing so heavily.

The many Eastern Red Columbine is done for this year and needs to be cut back severely; it will maintain a nice green mound all summer.

Tradescantia is pretty now but needs to be thinned, as it has spread too widely. Many were sheared heavily ten days ago. The daylilies, the sweet peas–all overgrown.  The spirea finished its bloom weeks ago and should be pruned back hard to maintain its size. Other chores abound.  The fence installation was completed last week and paths to the gates need to be improved.

How to finish planting the meditation circle is still an interesting problem to solve, something to ponder while working on these maintenance tasks this week and contemplating transitions.