Monday, July 14, 2008

Monarda and Friends!

For those patient readers who have seen me lament and sympathized for the apparent (at least partial) demise of our bumblebees this spring and summer, this one's for you! They were back today, bigger, busier and better than ever! With impeccable timing, I might add, since I was taking these pictures to do a follow up on a great post and conversation Gail had going on Clay and Limestone the other day. The putative subject here, of course, is Monarda didyma, v. 'Bluestocking' or in Gail's case, 'Marshall's Delight.' To my eye they are virtually identical though there must be some be some slight variation, but hey, I don't buy many plants for their pedigrees (there are some exceptions, of course)! I plant them for their beauty and potential to help feed the garden denizens, especially the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and whichever Monarda this may be, I care little.

In the first shot, we see a more 'head on approach' to work that this bee has adopted for tackling this angle of the bloom. It might be the same bee in the following shot, or maybe not, but there were so many working the flowers, that I put the camera in continuous shooting mode and fired away. I think I took well over a hundred shots, most of which have a bee in them somewhere, though sometimes hidden. It took us a while to comb through them all to select what we thought were the top four standout shots. And there were a great many other excellent shots as well, (for various reasons), but these rose to the top. I hope you agree ...
Here, our friend is treating us to a prime shot of his backside, but wow, check out those wings! In this and some other shots I got, I could see really clearly to what extent the color of the flower around the bee influences our perception of the color of his wings. I'd love to get a comparable shot against the red Monarda to see what that would be like, but today, our friends the bumblebees were really most interested in the purple, as the red has already been blooming a couple of weeks, and is probably bargain basement scrounging for these guys at this point. This 'Blue Stocking' only started blooming this past week, so is relatively fresh I suppose. But given the number of visitors it gets every day, there must still be a lot of the good stuff there for the butterflies (who were in abundance earlier, but wouldn't sit still for posing), and of course, the bumblebees. The hummingbirds, alas, were not to be seen today, but these shots were taken in very late afternoon sun ....
This shot is mostly about bee butt, because he's buried his head so deeply into the flower, but you have to admit, he does give an attractive view of his backside, eh? Call me weird, but I love getting shots of bees in such 'compromising' positions, and frankly, sometimes that's the only way I can get them successfully! But I guess it's true, if one loves bees, one also has to love bee butts, they're just part of the overall package, hehe.
And finally, though this might not really be the best of the best, I really like this shot for the lighting and glow it puts off, and though the bee may not be in perfect focus (the wings were really going there!), I think it at least constitutes a true 'impromptu' shot of the bee at work. For me at least, the intense juxtaposition of the red and purple glows made this an attractive shot, despite its faults.

Though today was a superbly perfect early summer day (especially for July!), I didn't manage to get all I wanted to accomplish done, and in fact very little other than household work and laundry (it was a great day to hang out the sheets on the line and I did). Thanks to all the humidity we've had this past week, my arthritic hips and knees just weren't in the mood for a workout, so completing the weeding and planting of the front bed has been delayed yet again for a few days. Fortunately, we're down to the last few plants and as long as they're well watered (they are), they can go in any time soon. I was somewhat disappointed in myself, but there are those days when I know that exceeding my limits will pay no dividends, and today was one of those days. But as you can see, I spent considerable quality time among my plant and insect friends, tending to them, watering and a bit of weeding, but not too much. I also got some wonderful shots of shadows on the house and the pure blue, unfettered sky we had today, and we both enjoyed grilling our dinner outside, because the mosquitoes have given us at least a brief respite! We still plan on spraying for them as soon as Fernymoss gets the yard mowed again ... no chances of rain until at least Friday according to Weather Underground. Who needs local TV for weather? They cop it all from this site and NWS sites anyway ... why wait through commercials for the middleman?

And a special salute to all my French friends, on this, Le quatorze juillet! I think we'll have set off a rocket or two in honor of the French ... After all, they were pretty damned important in sustaining the American Experiment from the start, let's not forget that. Besides, they have over 400 varieties of cheese (mostly delicious) and some of the best wines in the world. I salute them now, as I do every year, with undying affection (yeah, despite the inevitable 'quirks,' lol).

Oh, and happy birthday Aaron!! (You know who you are, if you happen to read this!) You've got a bottle rocket with your name on it coming tonight!


Gail said...


I'm with you...who cares what the name is. What matters is that it is lovely to look at and provides food for our flying friends. Although, they do indeed look much alike! For some reason the bees and butterflies love Marshall's Delight (Blue Stocking) but couldn't care less for Grand Marshall...what is it about this particular variety that makes it so attractive?

Will you post your 'House and Sky' photos?

Did I thank you for the lovely link? Thank you!


Roses and Lilacs said...

I don't have monarda this year but I've seen quite a few bumble bees lately at my salvia. Even had a few honey bees but not many.

olivia said...

So wonderful to see the bees back in your garden! Wonderful photos ... what a lovely treat for the eyes you and FMoss have given us this season so far!

Yes ... Happy Bastille Day! I still can't believe I was standing in Louis' house (heh) a few weeks ago ... hehe.

Shady Gardener said...

My cone flowers are doing alright these days. The pink gets stronger as the days go by. I wonder if monarda could handle about 1/2 day+ shade? I may have to try it, and plant the alliums. Thanks for the tip! I do have a couple of variety already, but I've begun my list for this fall, which includes a couple of Imperials. :-)

Larry Kollar said...

Hooray for bees!

R&L, are the bees salivating over the salvia? :-)

Gail said...


Do you have Monarda didyma Pink Supreme? I bought it recently and it is a sweet pink. The butterflies are happy about having it! Maybe they are just renaming the same three cultivars over and over again!


Shady Gardener said...

IVG, Your monarda photos remind me of the July 4th fireworks! I wanted to ask if you checked out this post?

boran2 said...

I'm glad to see that your bees are back, IVG. And these are gorgeous flowers!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Gail,
That's right, a Monarda by any other name is still as sweet, eh? :-) I wonder what it is with all those "Marshall" cultivars you have down there, because I've never seen one with that name. But then again, we haven't shopped for Monarda for over 8 years, so who knows what they're calling them these days!

No need to thank for the linkie, that was a great post/conversation, which spurred me to get going on the purple of ours now that it's blooming! Of course I did want to give your great site a bit of a nudge too. :-)

Nope, we don't have that pink one, for one, that color has never impressed me, and two, where would we put it?! 2 expanding stands are about capacity for us on our lot, lol.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
Yeah, those bumblebees sure do love the salvias don't they? When our Meadow Sages ('May Night') need deadheading, it's a real challenge sometimes to snip the spent blooms off because the bees are always around!

You should give some Monarda a nice sunny spot if you have one to spare ... for all those reasons I've been plugging this plant for, lol.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Great to see you back, Olivia! And thanks, we've been having fun experimenting with it, and getting some great stuff without trying too hard, lol.

Ah Quatorze Juillet! Allons, enfants de la patrie, le jour de gloire est arrivé! With the occasional chatter and music about it on FIP (that Paris station I listen to all day), I should have remembered to set off some fireworks, but no! I think I did that last year too though, lol.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Shady!
What exposure is that 1/2 day? Ours out front gets full morning Eastern and some early afternoon sun, but is generally in shade after that. The patch in the back is in full sun all day, thus it's bigger. You could always give it a shot, and if you're ever in DM, let me know and we could send you home with some so you could try.

Have you noticed how the prices of bulbs have shot up this year? We've been planning on what to order too, and noticed $1-3 increases over last year on some things. VB's prices are up, but Park's has some very nice deals on Darwin tulips (the ones we have to replace from the great die off of '08).

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

hey FAR,
We're sure glad to see them back in increasing numbers!

Can tell you this much, I know how much bees love salvias of all kinds. Did you have a lot around when your sage bloomed earlier this spring?

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey B2,
Thanks! They've really been spectacular these past few weeks and that purple is just getting started ...

Larry Kollar said...

Hm... I didn't see too many bees or anything else on the sage. Odd, now that you mention it.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey FAR,
I was wondering, because I didn't recall seeing any bees when you posted those sage blooms. That is odd they wouldn't be all over them, especially since that was relatively early when it bloomed. More garden mysteries....

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