Garden tour and Scarlet Bee Balm

I’m happy to say the Wild Ones 2011 Kentucky Native Plant Tour went quite well. We had ominous weather reports the night before, but Sunday afternoon turned out to be a great time to be outdoors.  We had approximately 200 participants.

It’s quite gratifying to know so many people have an interest in native plants. It was also a great opportunity to let folks know about our local chapter of Wild Ones. This organization is a valuable resource for those wanting to know about using natives in their landscapes.

The showiest plant in my backyard this weekend was the Scarlet Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) which is now at peak bloom. This is a sentimental plant for me as I remember it from my grandmother’s garden. I love to crush and smell its aromatic leaves.  I also like to use it in bouquets.

Monarda didyma

Someone on the tour asked if butterflies used Bee Balm. I have recently seen Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus philenor) and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) on it. Here is a Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) visiting a Bee Balm blossom.

I enjoy sharing our backyard. If you were unable to attend the tour would like to see it, please let me know and we’ll arrange a time.

There were so many tour participants that I ran out of copies of the history of our garden and resource list. Click the previous link to download a pdf.

Plans are underway for another Kentucky Native Plant Garden Tour next year – showcasing three different gardens. If you have any ideas or feedback, I’d like very much to receive them. You can leave a comment on this blog, which will be visible to the public, or send me a private message.


Summer solstice flowers

As the summer solstice arrives, I’m seeing more flowers in the backyard. I’ve been unsure what would be blooming for the Wild Ones Kentucky native plant garden tour this weekend. It now appears there will be a nice variety. Here is the color in one corner of the garden.

The Pale Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea pallida) and the white Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium)  in the foreground have been blooming for three weeks and will not last much longer. The  purplish blooms behind the Quinine are Downy Skullcap (Scutellaria incana) which add nice contrast. In the background, the red Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa) is at its peak and the Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are beginning to bloom.

Other plants now blooming include:

1. Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata), 2. Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) 3. Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata), 4. Royal Catchfly (Silene regia), 5. Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens), 6. Rattlesnake Master(Erynigium yuccifolium), 7. Button Bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), 8. Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum), and 9. Ox-eye Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides).

I’m delighted to see the mid-summer blooms and the various insects they attract. And I’m looking forward to sharing the backyard as part of the garden tour. If you are in the area, I hope to see you!

Water feature

Two years ago we added a water feature to the backyard. It’s near our patio, where we spend considerable time in the summer. I never tire of the sight and sounds of the flowing water. our Kentucky backyard We often refer to it as the “pond.” It’s home to five goldfish. We don’t feed them but they seem to find plenty to eat and they have grown from about one to four inches long. We’re glad their diet includes mosquito eggs.

The pond is used by birds year around and it’s especially popular during hot summer days. Doves often come for a drink, while robins, cardinals, and grackles frequently come to bathe.

It’s fun to watch them from the kitchen window as they use their wings to do a lot of splashing. This robin (Turdus migratorius) certainly seemed to enjoy its bath.

American robin (Turdus migratorius)

We see occasional dragon flies and damsel flies, and other insects visit now and then. The pond adds another dimension to the backyard and I like sharing it with our various critters.

Azure butterflies

I’m enjoying fast-flying, tiny blue butterflies in the backyard. I think they are Summer Azures (Celastrina neglecta). They could easily be the “sky-flakes” Robert Frost refers to in his poem, “Blue Butterfly Day.” I was glad to have the camera with me when one lit nearby. It was an extra special treat to see the blue markings of the upper wings.

(Celastrina neglecta)) with wings open

It’s much more common for the Azures to perch with their wings closed, which shows a very different color and wing pattern.

(Celastrina neglecta) with wings closed

I often see the Azures around the Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), one of our native shrubs. This is the “Little Henry” variety which stays small.

(Itea virginica) in bloomThis hardy shrub will grow in sun or shade. I recently learned that it is a host plant for the Azures. Knowing that it provides food for both caterpillars and adults leaves me appreciating it even more.