sunday mornings in the garden.

Welcome to my new series to be posted here on Sunday mornings; a short (or maybe not so short) post about what’s happening in my garden each week.  This likely won’t continue year round, for obvious reasons.  I live in Minnesota and although snow can be pretty too, there isn’t a lot going on in the garden in January.  So we’ll just see how that goes.  Many of you seemed to enjoy my garden tour post last week, so why not make it a regular thing?

And on the plus side, for those of you with absolutely no interest in gardening, you’ll know to just skip the Sunday posts 😉

I do wish I’d thought of this in the spring instead of halfway through the growing season … but, here we are.  Better late than never.

The bee balm was blooming profusely in my garden last week.

This plant goes by a lot of names, the most popular being bee balm or bergamot, but its official name is Monarda.

I always think the flower looks like exploding fireworks.

Bee balm is in the mint family (the flowers and leaves are edible), and if you’ve ever grown it, you’d know that by the scent of its leaves.  And also by the way it spreads in the garden, much like mint, it can take over.

I have pretty much let mine run rampant in my back garden.  I have to confess that this is the garden in my yard that gets the least amount of love.  I think because it’s also the one that gets the most sun.  In my garden tour post last week I mentioned that I really don’t like gardening in the sun and it shows in this particular bed.  But at this point in summer, the bee balm is practically the only thing blooming in this spot so I’m OK with having lots of it.

I also have a rogue trumpet vine in this garden that so far I have been unable to eradicate.  It came with the house, so I’ve been battling it for over 30 years.  Oh, and P.S., this garden is on the border of our property, the white and black pots and the red gazing ball you see in the background are in my neighbor’s garden.  Obviously if those were my pots, I’d have turned them all rusty by now using Dixie Belle’s patina paint.

Bee balm comes in a variety of shades of red, pink, and purple-ish.  It also comes in a variety of heights.  My neighbor has one that is only about a foot tall, but the variety I have is 3′ tall.

Monarda is definitely a pollinator.  It attracts bees (hence the common name of bee balm), butterflies and other beneficial insects, and it also attracts hummingbirds.  I can attest to that because we often get hummingbirds visiting ours.  I’d love to be able to add a fabulous photo of a hummingbird in my garden here, but I’m never quick enough to get one.

Another pollinator plant that looked fantastic this week was my Astilbe.

I have three different colors of Astilbe in my garden; white, purple and one that started out as a peach color when I purchased it but has since reverted to a sort of sickly lavender.  The white has already gone over, and the lavender is just getting started, but the purple was at the peak of perfection this week.

I originally planted this Astilbe in a much shadier spot in my garden and it performed very poorly there.  The plant tag said it was a good choice for shade gardens, but I can tell you from experience that it does need some sun if you want it to get full and bloom profusely.

I moved it to our front northwest facing garden quite a few years ago and it does so much better now that it gets a lot of evening sunshine.  I’ve since divided it a couple of times, and I think I need to divide it again.  I was watching Gardener’s World recently and they said that Astilbe needs to be divided regularly to keep blooming.

Hmmmm.  Mine seems to still be blooming pretty good.

I have some ideas brewing in my head for expanding my gardens next year, so I may hold off and start dividing things next year to supply a new garden.

I mentioned that Astilbe is a good pollinator plant, and although I do see butterflies and bees on mine, the blooms are always loaded with tons of these little flies.

See them there?  I can see five of them in that photo.  I’m not super fond of those flies, whenever I water that spot they all fly up and swarm around which is kind of gross.  But they aren’t hurting anything so I try to leave them alone.

The Astilbe is planted right under my front window box, and I’ve discovered that the blooms combine beautifully with the purple and pink fuchsia and the dark purple sweet potato vine in the box.

One last note about the Astilbe, I often leave the flower heads on the plants to dry out.  Then I use them in my planters for winter.

So this plant does double duty for me.

Do you grow bee balm or Astilbe in your garden?  Or do you have another favorite flower that blooms in mid-July?  Leave a comment and let me know.  Also, be sure to let me know how you like the idea of my new gardening series!

39 thoughts on “sunday mornings in the garden.

  1. The joy a garden gives out is never ending, it renews life, it renews your spirit. I did a blue and yellow combination to honour the Ukraine this year on a background of purple and white perennials. I can’t explain the joy it gives me just waking and looking outside. Your garden is beautiful.


  2. I have always loved bee balm and have never had much luck growing it. Your gardens are lovely, I will be looking forward to see how they progress through the year. Absolutely beautiful, you really have a talent for gardening.


    1. Definitely give Astilbe a try. One thing to note, they don’t like to dry out, so make sure they get plenty of water and some sunshine (but not hot all day sun) and they should do well.


  3. Love the idea of a Sunday garden post! Seeing all your gorgeous flowers makes me want to go out and work on mine! Already looking forward to next weeks posting!!


  4. I love how much your blog is evolving Miss Quandie! Maybe your yard is a symbol of that? I’m going to be enjoying your “dedicated” Sunday posts! Your yard looks so neat and clean, but still profuse at the same time; and I enjoy your writing… are one impressive Energizing Bunny (-:


    1. You’re so insightful Connie! I think you might be right about my yard being a symbol for not only my blog evolving, but my whole life. Now that I’m not bothered by that pesky day job I have more time to concentrate on the things that bring me joy, like gardening, refurbishing vintage items, traveling, and spending time with family.


  5. Love your gardening series! I’d love to see more of your outdoor areas. Do you fertilize your bee balm? If so, when?


    1. I do not fertilize my bee balm. In reality, I totally neglect it. That being said, over the years I have amended my soil with lots of compost. Personally I think compost is the key to having full, lush plants. We used to make our own, but we gave that up about 10 years ago (our compost bin fell apart and we never got around to replacing it). Maybe I need to do a post on compost. That kind of has a ring to it, doesn’t it?


      1. How does your bed of bee balm make it through fall and winter? Do you cover it? Do you cut it back in spring? Please do a composting post!


      2. I do absolutely nothing to it for winter, and I like to leave it in place for winter interest. I do have to cut it back in the spring though. I was just reading that I should deadhead it to promote additional blooming, but I never do that either 😉


  6. My mom call those red bee balm “firecrackers” and I love them. I also leave my bee balm for birds and winter interest, I’ve never heard to deadhead them for additional blooming. Might try that in one of my gardens, but that’s a lot of dead heading.
    Good tip about the astilbe, mine are in mostly shade and are not good at all. I’m going to move them this fall.
    I will be looking forward to the garden posts.


    1. Oh good, I’m not the only one who see’s fireworks! And I agree, that would be a lot of deadheading. Not sure it’s worth it. And yes, definitely move that Astilbe. Mine were always spindly and barely bloomed in the shade. Now that they get a bunch of evening sun they have blossomed (literally and figuratively).


  7. Love your garden posts and all your shade plants. I believe I saw 6 flies in your pic. I must pay too much attention to detail? 😉
    The astilbe is a beautiful color.
    Congrats on your magazine article………I’m planning on picking up an issue. Looks full of great ideas.


    1. I’m so glad some of you enjoy the gardening posts. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the garden so it’s nice to be able to share it here 🙂


  8. I love the Sunday gardening post idea! Greatly looking forward to getting shady area garden ideas. See you next Sunday!


      1. I was surprised how prolific my Moonflowers grew in the shade this year. Normally I grow them in sunnier areas but the seed travels and new plants come up the following year. Many had made it to the shady area; they bloomed at week later than normal but are strong and hardy. That’s what I love about gardening….the surprises, that and the fragrances. We are in zone 3-4.


  9. Love this garden series! Keep up the good work!! I’ve already learned that I have to move my Astilbe out of the shade and into a more sunny location. Thx.


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