June 29, 2015

Plant of the Month: Lesser Calamint


Need a low-growing, prolific bloomer for a sunny garden spot or border? Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta might be the plant for you. Nicknamed Lesser Calamint, this mound-forming perennial blooms from June to first frost, and sometimes afterward. It's hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9, according to Midwest Groundcovers, which shares some excellent photos of the plant in full bloom at maturity.

The first photo in this post is deceptive: I'm estimating each flower is about one-quarter the width of my pinky finger. I enlarged and cropped the photo so you could see the detail of the tiny, lavender/white blooms.

group shot

You get an idea of the scale of the individual flowers from the photo above: The Lesser Calamint plants shown here are the smaller ones with plant stakes along the front border of a pollinator garden. The flowers grow along a spiking stem in profusion during the summer. The plants in this photo are first-year plants. When mature, they reach heights and spreads of about one to two feet.

bumbles and honey

I discovered this plant during a late autumn 2013 trip to Olbrich Botanical Gardens, in Madison, which has sold Lesser Calamint during its plant sale for the past few years. Even in late fall, the plants there were covered with a diverse range of pollinators. This plant is low-maintenance and drought-tolerant, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. (Information about Lesser Calamint in this post comes from these two sources and my own experience.)

The subspecies nepeta is sterile, so it won't re-seed. It forms a shrub-like mound of foliage, out of which the flower stems emerge in late spring.

young plants

This slightly closer view of the foliage and the flower stems shows how airy and light they are.

Other facts about Lesser Calamint:

  • The leaves of this Mint-family plant are edible as a tea or as an herb, with scent and flavor reminiscent of Oregano and Mint;
  • It prefers full sun, but tolerates afternoon shade, and prefers dry to medium moisture levels;
  • No serious insect or disease problems; and
  • The minty scent deters deer and rabbits.

It's an attractive and wildlife-friendly plant that has the added benefit of being edible.


June 20, 2015

Seasonal Celebrations: The Great Sunflower Project


Have you ever spent 30 minutes simply watching pollinators? If not, I highly recommend it. It's calming, it's fun; plus, it puts you in touch with nature at a very basic level.

Better yet, how about spending those 30 minutes (shorter or longer times are fine, too) counting and documenting the numbers and types of pollinators you see for The Great Sunflower Project? If you feel you need a reason to sit and watch your garden visitors, this will give you a purpose and a mission! Citizen science at its best!

The website explains, in detail, how to start, what they want you to track, and how to record it. Five minutes appears to be the minimum time requirement, probably to make the data valid. And you can choose to observe one plant, a grouping of plants, or a larger area. (The plants don't need to be Sunflowers.) Based on my limited experience, it's easier to track activity on one plant or a small grouping of plants.

You don't have to be a pollinator expert! I, certainly, am not. But there are pollinator categories to choose. The project asks you to document as specifically as you can, and to avoid specifics if you aren't sure.

I've reported through the Great Sunflower Project twice--both times last summer. The second time, I chose to watch the same plant for 30 minutes.


I chose Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata). In mid- and late summer, we had meadows full of this native wildflower blooming on our property up at our cottage. And they were covered in pollinators of all types--from bees to butterflies to hummingbirds.

After I finished tracking and documenting for the Great Sunflower Project, I took a few photos and captured some video.









Just recently I played around with the video segments to make a very simple presentation to share. Note that the pollinators are flying fast, and this is not fast-motion video. (You can enlarge it by clicking on "full screen" or watch it on YouTube.)

It's just a quick glance to show how the pollinators enjoyed that Monarda punctata. What a joyful sight!

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I'm linking this post with Donna's Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View. Do head on over to see what other gardeners look forward to in the season ahead.

I'll also link in with Gail's Wildflower Wednesday, which appears on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Check it out!

June 15, 2015

The Bright Blooms of June

red admiral
Vanessa atalanta

It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, celebrated on the 15th of each month, and I'm sneaking in just under the wire with my contribution. If you have a chance, check out Carol's wonderful meme, over at May Dreams Gardens.

Before I start with the blooms: Here's a pollinator update.

We've already had some action with butterflies this season--Mourning Cloaks, Tiger Swallowtails, and many Red Admirals, like the one resting among the hostas in the first photo. I'm a little concerned about the bumblebees, as their numbers seem smaller, despite the fact that many plants are blooming.

Carpenter Bee on Salvia 'May Night'

The Carpenter Bees are very active, though, on the Salvia, and I have noticed a few honey bees there, too. Traditionally, this plant is one of the more popular pollinator hangouts in my garden. After the blooms fade, I clip them repeatedly throughout the summer for several rounds of continued flowering.

Among other perennials and blooming shrubs that are currently (or were recently) stars in the garden:

mock orange
Philadelphus spp.

The Mock Oranges have been gorgeous this year. I'm unsure exactly which species we have, since the shrubs were here when we moved in. They always give us a great show in late spring, along with a pleasant, understated scent.

I wasn't planning to include this photo with the truck, but it illustrates the scale
and lovely draping pattern of the Mock Oranges (with leaning Staghorn Sumac in front).

Aquilegia canadensis

Columbines are still blooming in several spots where I added them last year. They seem to thrive in sun, part sun, and even deep shade. (The fuzzy stuff you see on the blooms is Cottonwood fluff from several neighborhood trees, which have been especially prolific with their seeds this year.)

Lamium maculatum

Dead Nettles of various colors seem to bloom all season long. I suppose they could be invasive, but here they only seem to spread under the picnic table and in an enclosed area along a gravel path.

Unknown rose hybrid

Some of our roses are blooming.

And many of the annuals I added in May are flowering prolifically, including:

Angelonia angustifolia

Angelonia, which I potted with Marigolds. I think the hummingbirds like these, although I haven't seen them here yet.

Pentas lanceolata 'Graffiti Red Lace'

Red Pentas, which I planted for the butterflies and bees (and potentially for cut flowers). They're on their second round of blooms. This is my first time planting Pentas.

Top: 'Aretes Upright Arroyo Grande'
Bottom: 'Windchimes'

I always plant Fuchsias for the hummingbirds. Who can resist these flowers?

Left: 'Blaze'
Right top and bottom: 'Bandana Red'

The Lantanas are settling in to their sunny spots in the potager. I hope they'll attract butterflies like they did last year.

Polygonatum biflorum

Solomon's Seal's flowers remind me of petticoats.

In addition, many plants are on the verge of blooming, and I find their buds such a promising stage in the garden:

Echinacea purpurea

Native Purple Coneflower, a workhorse in the potager and great for cut flower arrangements;

butterfly weed
Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly Weed, planted for its beauty, and as a larval host and nectar source for Monarch butterflies;

Rhus typhina

The Staghorn Sumacs, whose blooms will yield bright, warm red berries in the fall and winter;

Zinnia 'Cut and Come Again'

Zinnias, which I also grow for cut flowers (since I couldn't find my favorite, 'State Fair Mix' at the garden center, I chose 'Cut and Come Again' this year);

Actea racemosa (syn. Cimicifuga racemosa)

And, finally, the elegant Bugbane, which always seems to bloom near the solstice, with tall, white, elegant spikes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There's still time to participate in the "Garden Lessons Learned" meme. Feel free to write a post or share one you've already written about your "Lessons Learned" during the past season. Then share your links or simple observations in the comments at: Garden Lessons Learned, Quarter 2, 2015. The link will be available always under the "Lessons Learned" tab at the top of this blog.

Please also join in Donna's Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View! You can join in with a post that fits both memes, or separate posts for one or both of them. I'll include wrap-ups on PlantPostings' Facebook page as we approach the solstice.

June 10, 2015

Ten Takeaways From the Garden Bloggers' Fling


Recently, I attended the Garden Bloggers' Fling in Toronto. It was great fun! Bloggers from around the world converged on the city to share camaraderie, information, ideas, and garden tours.

I hope to post in-depth coverage of several individual gardens in the weeks ahead, but for now I thought I'd share a few takeaways--simple observations that come to mind as I sift through the multisensory experience.



If you don't have a rabbit problem like I do, Strawberries can be planted just about anywhere as a great groundcover, with the added benefit of fresh, sweet fruit, in season. I was excited to try this, and then I realized rabbits in my garden would eat them. Maybe I'll try this in a section of my fenced-in potager.



I'm hankering for Ninebark (Physocarpus spp.). I didn't even realize this desire until I got home and started reviewing the plethora of photos I snapped of this lovely shrub. If you have a Ninebark, you probably realize its appeal in all seasons, not to mention the value to pollinators and wildlife. It's a great substitute for Barberry (Berberis spp.) which is invasive in North America.



I have many unmatched pots. I have many overgrown perennials. I have potting soil. I don't have to spend big bucks on new "matching" pots and plants. I can divide what I have now and stuff odds and ends of perennials (and annuals) in said pots of various shapes and sizes. Big plants spill over the sides of the pots anyway, and the colorful combinations are whimsical and welcoming.


japanese maple

Speaking of pots, they're perfect for small Japanese Maples. (Many ideas on this subject are forming in my brain. Hehe.)


tomato cages

Tomato cages can be turned on their sides as structure and climbing support for plants like squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, and many other edibles. I've never tried this, but when/if I have a bigger vegetable garden, I will.



Just about any vessel with a cavity that will hold soil can be used as a container for plants. Sometimes, they can even be mounted on fences and other structures. (Time to investigate the "treasures" in my garage.)


A small section of the incredibly wonderful overflowing garden of Marion Jarvie, which is open
to the public several times per year.

Sometimes the scale and richness of a large, diverse garden can be overwhelming when looking at the big picture.


Equally mind-boggling is the small scale of tiny seedlings, purposefully placed together in close quarters, like a fairy garden within a big garden. (How many tiny plants can you find in this one small area?)



Metal sculpture and earthy elements, combined with colorful plants can create movement and whimsical eye appeal.


Here, metal sculpture combines with rock, metalized pots, and plants for a simple, yet elegant combination.


Toronto skyline as a backdrop, as viewed from Toronto Island gardens.

The Toronto skyline is stunning. It pops into view at various locations around the city, and is especially dramatic when clouds, rain, and stormy weather are imminent.



Garden bloggers, like most gardeners, are welcoming people. This was my first Garden Bloggers' Fling, and I was a little nervous about circulating with people who've known each other from previous flings. But there were other newbies, too, and the veterans shared tips, tricks, and fun to make the conference a truly rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Several of us grabbed chalk at the Evergreen Brick Works to add our mark to the graffiti-
decorated floor.

I'm already looking forward to next year's Fling in Minneapolis/St. Paul, to reconnect, and to meet new garden-blogging friends!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There's still time to participate in the "Garden Lessons Learned" meme. Feel free to write a post or share one you've already written about your "Lessons Learned" during the past season. Then share your links or simple observations in the comments at: Garden Lessons Learned, Quarter 2, 2015. The link will be available always under the "Lessons Learned" tab at the top of this blog.

Please also join in Donna's Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View! You can join in with a post that fits both memes, or separate posts for one or both of them. I'll include wrap-ups on PlantPostings' Facebook page as we approach the solstice.