(Wild)flowery Friday.

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Yes, this plant is about as common here as wearing socks…well, except it’s summer and a blisteringly hot one at that and everyone is currently shod in sandals and…where was I? Yeah. Wild bergamot, sometimes called horsemint.  Monarda fistulosa (syn. M. menthifolia, M. bradburrana).  Socks in winter.  Ahem.

It looks pretty marvelous, especially when photographed in the early morning.  One of my favourite Alberta wildflowers.  Me and the bees.   🙂

Rain…and a garden update.

That ghastly s-word is accumulating heavily just west of Calgary as I write this, and I’m hoping the steady, slow rain that is currently falling here doesn’t decide to turn over to white flakes.  The city is greening up in a glorious way with this sudden moisture – it’s truly amazing to see what a few millimetres of rain can do to change the landscape.  On average, Calgary receives about 70 mm of rain and/or snow during the months of April and May, so it’s been a bit of a surprise to have barely cleared 30 mm in the past 53 days.  (No matter; the forecasters tell us 80 mm of rain is heading our way tomorrow.  Just goes to show there’s never a happy medium!).

The neighbourhood trees are all blooming at once:  apples, chokecherries, lilacs, cherries and plums.  They’re rushing headlong into fruit production, and while their blossoms seem more profuse and fragrant than usual, they won’t last more than a blink.  Everything seems accelerated this year, but maybe that’s more my state of mind than anything.  (Has anyone else noticed this?).

In my flowerbeds, the muscari are still hanging on, cheerfully poking out from the edges of the junipers.  The nepeta (I have both N. mussinii  and N. subsessilis) and the speedwell (Veronica penduncularis unbrosa ‘Georgia Blue’) is blooming and looking mighty fine in this suddenly cooler weather.   And the Aurinia saxatile ‘Gold Dust’ that I wrote about last year is just starting to put on her usual early show, although the plant has barely had time to mound as she usually does.

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Basket of gold. 

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There are a million photos of water droplets on lady’s mantle on the Internet.  Here’s another one. 

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I love Artemis schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’.  I don’t love the quack grass that seems to be in every photo I took this afternoon.  (I just weeded two days ago, honest!). 

If I ever actually get the time for some serious shopping and planting, I plan to put in quite a few more perennials in the beds.  A couple of weeks ago, I planted some purple Liatris spicata, which may not be the most original choice, given that I think every single gardener in Calgary is already growing them.  Hey – at least I know they’re successful!  🙂  Phlox paniculata ‘Nicky’ and blue sea holly (Eryngium alpinum) are new additions as well, picked up at the same time as the liatris.  I’ve also thrown in a pretty lungwort that a co-worker gave me.  On my list of potential buys:  Monarda, Echinops, goldenrod, alpine lady’s mantle, and more Aurinia, gold flax (Linum flavum compactum), and scabiosa.

Of course, I will probably forget my grand plan when I finally get inside the garden centre.  We shall see what I actually come home with.  😉

What plant selections (perennial or otherwise) are you most excited about this year?

Wild for bergamot.

Taking advantage of a day off of work and some fabulously sunny weather, my hubby and I took a short jaunt up to Nose Hill Park yesterday. (As an aside, did you know that Calgary has the “most sunny days year-’round” of any place in Canada? Of course, there is also snow on the ground during most of those sunny days…we’re not exactly a beach community here. Still, if you’re looking for the clincher reason to live in Calgary, the sun has got to be it!). We didn’t see the deer and coyotes that frequent the Hill (although tracks were everywhere!), but we still found a ton of interesting things to look at and photograph.

One of my subjects was a dried clump of wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). They grow everywhere on the Hill, and I especially enjoy watching the bees go absolutely mad for them in the summertime. A quick check in Linda Kershaw‘s guide to Alberta Wayside Wildflowers (2003, Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton) gives a bit of insight into the plant’s historical uses:

European settlers and Native peoples gathered this aromatic plant for flavouring salads, cooked vegetables and stews and for making a pleasant minty tea. Dried, powdered leaves were sprinkled on food to keep flies and other insects away and were rubbed onto hair, skin, clothing and even favourite horses as perfume.

Have you ever used bergamot (bee balm) leaves in cooking or for tea? And do you grow cultivated varieties of Monarda in your garden? They’re definitely on my list of plants to try in my own garden this year!

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(January)

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(July)
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(August)