Native Monarda punctata

Monarda punctata in a ceramic vase by local potter Bob Leek.

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If you’re looking for an elegant and unusual native perennial for a sunny spot in your garden, you might enjoy growing Monarda punctata.  Known as horsemint, or spotted bee balm, this very unusual floral display relies on large bracts and tiny, spotted flowers to advertise its nectar.

There are nine different varieties of this very architectural Monarda, having slight variations in color of the bracts and tiny flowers.  Unlike most Monardas, the ‘flowers’ grow in stacks, one group atop the next, surrounded by elegant bracts.  Each long branch, cloaked in narrow, opposite leaves. branches out near the top.  Each branch terminates in its own stack of flower clusters.

Bees of all sorts and hummingbirds are attracted to feed on the plant’s nectar.

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Hardy in Zones 3-8, Monarda punctata is native over most of the Eastern United States from Vermont to Texas.  A member of the mint family, clumps will expand over time.  Start new plants from seed or stem cuttings taken in summer.

I found my plant at the Sassafras Farm booth at the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market, and just planted it out into a permanent spot in the garden a few days ago.  I cut it back a bit this morning , hoping to encourage a new round of fresh flowers.  Who knows, maybe these little cuttings in the vase will throw out some new roots over the week ahead, and I can grow out a few more plants of this beauty.

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I am encouraged to grow more of this Monarda because other Monarda species have done very well for us,  can tolerate some days of dry soil, once established, and they grow in full sun to partial shade.  This is a native herb, and can get along on its own quite nicely without a lot of fuss from a gardener.

I like that, as there are lots of other plants in our garden which need attention, and there are always a few weeds I need to pull as well!

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Monarda’s texture and aroma make it unattractive to deer; another reason I’m happy to grow it!  We cut back our other Monardas after they bloom, and new blooming stems often appear along the main stems to extend the season.  Monarda will die back in autumn, and will disappear entirely over winter.  But it comes back the following spring, larger and with more flowers each passing year.

And we are always happy to welcome Monarda in early summer, knowing we will have a long season of enjoying its fragrance, beauty, and its ability to attract interesting pollinators to our garden.

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Echinacea and Monarda fistulosa prove beautiful native perennials in our area.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Sunday Dinner: Artistry

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“Art and love are the same thing:
It’s the process of seeing yourself
in things that are not you.”
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Chuck Klosterman

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Iris germanica ‘Secret Rites’

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“Everything you can imagine is real.”
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Pablo Picasso

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“If you ask me what I came to do in this world,
I, an artist, will answer you:
I am here to live out loud.”
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Émile Zola

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“Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist
once he grows up.”
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Pablo Picasso

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“Art washes away from the soul
the dust of everyday life.”
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Pablo Picasso

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“It would be possible to describe everything scientifically,
but it would make no sense;
it would be without meaning,
as if you described a Beethoven symphony
as a variation of wave pressure.”
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Albert Einstein

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“When words become unclear,
I shall focus with photographs.
When images become inadequate,
I shall be content with silence.”
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Ansel Adams

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

Vases by Bob Leek

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“Art is not what you see,
but what you make others see.”
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Edgar Degas

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“There are painters who transform the sun
to a yellow spot,
but there are others
who with the help of their art and their intelligence,
transform a yellow spot
into sun”
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Pablo Picasso

Autumn Roses, Safely in a Vase Today

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The wind is cold out of the west.  Even with brilliant sunshine, it was shivery cold as I dug the last tender fern to bring in today.  Frost has been forecast several times over the last week, but thus far its  been only a flirtation with that first autumn frost which decimates what’s left of our summer garden.

Most of our tender plants are either inside already, or snuggled up against the walls of our protected patio.  I trust that area to stay a few degrees warmer than the garden, which will suffice until the weather turns truly frosty next month.

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I cut a half dozen roses early Saturday morning to take to my parents, believing if left growing, they would be frozen that night.  But, as you can see, the roses keep unfolding peacefully.  The colors may be a little off from May.  Yet I believe these are almost more beautiful.

Last night hovered around 33F for a few hours around sunrise.  But tonight, I believe, will be ‘it.’  We’ve had several weeks now to prepare and remember every last thing we can possibly bring indoors.

Except the roses….

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Even yesterday afternoon, I made cuttings from our favorite scented geraniums thinking to stick them in pots around other things in hopes they will root and last through winter in the garage/conservatory.  And this afternoon, I cut a few more beautiful and wonderfully scented sprigs for this vase.

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The roses are the main attraction here.  But they are accented with a few of the very first little starts I set out last April:  A lacy Spanish lavender and a beautiful blue mealy sage.  Both have bloomed non-stop for the last seven months.  They might even come back next spring if our winter is mild.   You might also notice a few stems of Euphorbia, ‘Diamond Frost,’ still blooming in the garden, and a few tiny trumpets of lavender Oxalis.

The vase was made by our potter friend, Denis Orton.  These wonderful crystalline glazes are one of his passions, and we enjoy collecting pieces of his work from time to time.

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The roses are heavily perfumed ones, and have filled the house with their beautiful aroma as they warm up indoors.  If frost does come tonight, we will still have roses to enjoy for the next few days, and the house will still smell of summer.

That was reason enough to venture out this afternoon to cut them for a vase, and touch with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden yet again.  She faithfully cuts and arranges beautiful vases of flowers each week, photographing them and writing each week about what is fresh in her garden.  I admire her dedication to this meme, and appreciate her giving other gardeners the opportunity to join in every Monday.

Please visit her page to see what other gardeners around the world have to arrange this week as we slip ever closer to the holidays.

I am far more likely to plant up a pot of something for the house than to cut flowers and arrange them.  But every now and again, I can’t resist harvesting a bit of beauty and bringing it in for us to enjoy.  And so with theses roses, safely in a vase indoors before the frost.

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Magical autumn roses still blooming today in our garden....

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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A Forest Garden 2017 garden calendar is available now

Not Just A Vase: Pots by Dorothy Steele

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“I have always seen clay as organic in substance and form,

and have been drawn to the Earth, nature and its colors. 

It is out of this core inspiration that I create my pottery.” 

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Dorothy Steele

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It was love at first sight….

I fell in love with Dorothy’s enchanting pottery immediately, when I discovered it more than a year ago, at Mossy Creek Pottery in Lincoln City, OR.  None came home with me on that trip, but I purchased two of her mugs when I returned this April, as a gift for my partner.

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I chose designs from her sea themed collection, embellished with mermaids, shells, sea grasses and a long tentacled jellyfish.  We’ve used them daily since, remembering our love for the Oregon coast as we do.

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But a flurry of emails between us found Dorothy agreeing to construct a few more mugs for us with her signature grapevines, dragonfly and other garden motifs.  She offered to make several to give me a choice.  But, I loved them all. 

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Also a gardener, Dorothy uses cuttings from her garden in her work.  She presses ferns, leaves, vines and other natural objects into slabs of porcelain to create organic artworks which also happen to be functional.

I love using beautiful works of art every day, taking fresh pleasure in them with each sip of coffee.

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Dorothy and I share a love for beautiful pottery, which is enough to begin a transcontinental friendship.  But then we have both invested chunks of our lives teaching in public school and elsewhere, and we share a deep passion for our gardens and the natural world.  We both love making beautiful things with our hands.  And I admire her wonderful imagination for creating in clay and glaze.

Dorothy moved her studio home to Gresham Oregon in 2010, and from there supplies six galleries in Oregon, another in Washington, and participates in numerous juried shows, retail craft fairs and wholesale craft markets.  She and her potter colleagues also participate in ‘Empty Bowls’ to help feed the hungry in the greater Portland area.

These mugs are perhaps the tamest of her creations.  Most of her bowls, tea pots, candlesticks, sake and sushi sets take whimsical, organic forms as well.  If you have a moment, please follow the links to Dorothy’s site to see more of her pots.

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To make a long story longer, I couldn’t choose between the mugs Dorothy constructed for us and advised her to, “Send them all!”  One or two will find their way to loved ones at the holidays, and we will enjoy the rest.  I am beguiled by the dragonflies and curling vines; summer captured forever in clay.

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I’m using them as vases today, holding a few clippings of Oxalis, Coleus and Heuchera from pots by the door.  I squandered the cool early morning hours watering, weeding, planting and photographing; neglecting cuttings for a vase until after it was too hot to breathe.  I hope these few stems will do….

Cathy, at Rambling In the Garden always inspires with her floral creations.  And today her vase is expertly filled with Hydrangea and Cosmos, and many other delectable blossoms.  Please visit her to see what other gardeners around the planet snipped for their vases today.    You’ll find links in her comments to many wonderful garden sites. We all appreciate Cathy for hosting this tete a tete of flowers each Monday.

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Gardening friends in Oregon likely know Dorothy and her work already.  But I want to share her unique porcelain pottery with others, too.

My collection of Steele pots is destined to grow in the years ahead, and perhaps yours might, as well…..

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Email: steelepots@gmail.com

Email: steelepots@gmail.com

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Woodland Gnome 2016

 

In A Very Special Vase This Monday

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A very special vase, made by our friend, Denis Orton, filled with budding branches and ivy, sits in our dining room this week.  I cut the Ivy, Forsythia, Magnolia, and Elaeagnus while our ground was still covered in snow last week.  It has had five or six days for the buds to swell, and our first Forsythia flowers began to open over the weekend.

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This is our first tribute to spring, although we still have piles of snow here and there in the garden.  I expect the last of the snow to dissolve in tonight’s warm rain.

Warm?  In February?  you might wonder…. Our sunny day today reached the mid-70s by early afternoon.

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But I noticed this lovely Magnolia bud while shoveling snow off of the driveway a week ago, and decided to bring one inside.  These are magnificent as they unfold each spring.  It is the first time I’ve added one to an arrangement of winter branches.

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Our Forsythia began opening an occasional bloom even before Christmas.  They are so sensitive to the littlest bit of warmth, and their buds have swelled throughout all the various shrubs around the garden.   We could cut a few branches of Forsythia every week between now and the end of March, and you’d never notice them missing!

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Whenever we are lucky enough to have a branch root in the vase, I find a place to plant it back in the garden.

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The ivy was poking out of a snow covered planter box when I clipped it last week.  It amazes me how hardy these delicate looking leaves prove themselves to be even when covered with ice and snow.  They keep growing right through our Virginia winter.

Our friend, a retired chemist and professional potter, has been experimenting with crystalline glazes for several years now.

I think this is his most beautiful crystalline glaze yet, filled with soft greens and blues and punctuated with sparkling metallic crystals.  He surprised us with the vase, filled with fresh flowers, a day or two before Christmas.  We were so excited and pleased to receive the vase, as beautiful hand made pottery is a special joy for us.

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These glazes produce pieces which are absolutely unique. 

I’ve been looking forward to using Denis’s gorgeous vase in a Monday post.  It has been sitting on our dining table, empty, through much of January.

But now that we have traveled a month into the new year, I am happy to fill it with flowering branches, and wait for the show to unfold!

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Appreciation, as always, to Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden, for sponsoring our Monday vases.   Please visit her post today to see a lovely antique vase filled with beautiful spring flowers.  If your heart needs Hyacinths and Daffodils, you will enjoy gazing at her photos today.  You’ll find a multitude of links to vases arranged by other gardeners around the world.

Woodland Gnome 2016

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