Bee balm is the ‘queen bee’ of flirty blooms – in appearance and in attracting bees! Bee balm is also labelled monarda or bergamot, though I often call it ‘Dr. Seuss flower’, since it reminds me of his fanciful illustrations. The upright tubular petals encircle the pincushion centers in a flamboyant halo. It’s like they are cheering with hair flying in the wind. These lively blooms come in shades of pink, violet, white or red. Being part of the mint family, the blooms and entire plant are fragrant, attracting not only bees, but butterflies and hummingbirds too. Bee balm adds a special splash to the garden.
Technical stuff – Bee balm is a hardy perennial (most varieties to Zone 4), height of about 36” and spread of 24” (dwarf varieties are available), can be aggressive spreader in a happy spot, likes sun or part sun and moist soil, blooms mid-summer into fall, susceptible to powdery mildew.
Pungent, spicy, aromatic...culinary herbs bring texture, depth and a whole other world of scent to the garden! When walking my path, with thyme amongst the stepping stones, and mint mixed in the plantings, you need only slightly brush these herbs to release their fragrant rush. Some herbs such as basil, rosemary and dill are annuals, but many herbs like sage, lavender, mint, thyme and lemon balm are perennials – just check the labels for zone information as there are many varieties. The lavender and sage below are over 10 yrs old. You cannot mention mint without a big warning on its invasive quality. Mint needs a well contained bed of its own, or preferably a big pot to keep it contained. Of course culinary herbs make one of the best container gardens. I have herbs in pots, in the veggie garden and mixed in the perennial gardens. For me, culinary herbs make the garden interactive: a caress of rosemary transfers my thoughts to the Mediterranean, a snack of mint or parsley awakens the palate, a leaf of lemon balm refreshes, velvety sage makes me think of holiday dinners, and dill makes me crave dips and pickles!
Just in case you haven’t had enough peony blooms, I am posting a few more photos! Peonies bear the blame of not blooming long enough. If you have enough space to plant three or more peony plants, you can stagger their bloom time to have peonies blossoming for 4-6 wks. Check the labels for bloom time to select an early, mid and late bloomer. Photos above are of my late bloomers…
The gift of fragrance can be abundant in the garden. Three of my favourite scents are dancing on the garden breeze right now: abelia, jacob’s ladder and mock orange. Abelia is a relative to honeysuckle so comes by its sweet scent honestly. The softly arching branches carry clusters of perfect five petal, pale pink blooms that boisterously waft a jasmine-like bouquet. Jacob’s ladder is a common enough perennial, but many don’t realize the fruity scent of the delicate blossoms – reminds me of grape candy! And my beloved mock orange. Growing up on the farm we had a big old mock orange shrub outside of our screened porch; the incredible orange blossom fragrance takes me back every time. I am partial to the shrub version (Philadelphus lewisii ‘Blizzard’), with light green leaves that’s happy in part shade. All of these easy to care for plants can add another level of enjoyment to your garden!
It’s so easy to rave and ramble on about peonies – they have been labelled one of THE most beautiful blooms (there’s a stressful title to live up to!), and are beloved and collected by many gardeners. I do rejoice that these gorgeous, abundant bloomers are also hardy, drought tolerant, and can survive over 50 years. The wonderment of the peony starts with their glossy, succulent shoots that splay into steadfast dark green foliage. Then the glorious tight buds that erupt into spectacular, frothy blooms. And for most peonies, the fragrance, ahhhh, the spell binding fragrance! Peonies can have a rose, lemon, honey or musk scent. Their blooms can be single, semi-double, double, ‘bomb’ or Japanese. Herbaceous peonies are your old fashioned peonies that die to the ground each winter and come back in the spring. Tree peonies have woody stems that lose their leaves in the fall, but the wood stays intact over winter. Itoh peonies are a cross of those two types, but do die to the ground each winter and come back in the spring. It can be daunting to choose a peony with so many cultivars. I would start with an herbaceous peony in a colour you love, and check the label to confirm it is a fragrant variety. Peonies can stand alone in a sunny part of your garden or add great bones to the back or end of a mixed garden. If you get addicted, you can certainly collect from there!
Technical stuff: Herbaceous peonies are perennials hardy to zone 2-3 depending on variety, prefer full sun and well-drained soil, most varieties have height and spread around 30”-36” (read labels), blooming in late spring/early summer.
It is THE time of wafting, wonderful fragrance in the garden! There are many perfumed blooms over the season that I cherish: abelia, mock orange, hyacinth, jacob’s ladder, roses, I even love marigolds. But when the lily of the valley, lilacs and fruit trees are all in raucous bloom, fragrance hits a fever pitch! And I have some new honeysuckle shrubs adding their sweetness to the mix this year. Every day feels like a wedding – the jaunty bees are grooms finding the fluffy floral brides. Plus the beauty of these blooms adds to the drunkenness of the senses - lily of the valley with the dainty white bells, lush lilacs in pale to deep mauves or fresh white, snowy plum blossoms and delicate apple blossoms. Ahhhh, I love you spring!
Trudging along in my winter mukluks at the grocery store, I round the corner to an array of spring bulbs in bright pots with crinkly pastel plastic. I melt at the vision of knotted hyacinth buds, soft green shoots of crocus, and nodding tulip buds. These fantastic bundles promise colour and scent – not just fragrance, but also that fresh, green smell of spring. I even inhale the rich, earthy scent of the moist soil. Little pots of anticipation and cheer to help get us through February! And when they finish blooming, I keep the greenery lightly watered until April/May, when you can tuck them as-is into the garden (I take the whole ‘pot clump’ and plant it). I am reminded that my hundreds of spring bulbs are lying in wait beneath the thick white blanket. Last year’s spring photos above are another reminder that 2014 blooms are on their way!
Looking out at the snow, I should be writing about garden bones and seed heads (to come!), but instead I am thinking of fragrance. The garden’s winter breath of icy, fresh air leaves me melancholy for headier scents – old favourites like lilacs, lily of the valley, peonies and roses, with a breeze carrying abelia, mock orange and maybe some honeysuckle. I always think jacob's ladder smells like cherry candy, and nasturtium and phlox are just as sweet. Then bring in the enticing herbals – lavender, russian sage, catmint, artemisia, lemon balm, even dill…this list is long! Because they are the closest to blooming, I will think of daffodils and hyacinth, close my eyes, take a slow, deep breath and imagine.