4th of July Blooms in the Garden
When mid summer is nigh and it is the 4th of July the the swamap magnolia is heavy with lingering bloom of fragrant waxy white flowers. The 'fire works' plant as I have named my red Monarda (bergamot, or bee balm) is bursting with spectacular red bloom and the blue hydrangea adds the third color for a holiday vase of blooms for the 4th of July table.
Monarda, which is the botanical name for Bergamot is a true native plant here in United States. It was brought to the attention of the Europeans in the 1500's when a Spanish botanist, Monardes discovered it and cataloged it in his book of botany. Since he thought it smelled like the bergamot, a small citrus fruit found growing along the Mediterranean coast, he called in bergamot. Later it officially was classified Monarda.
A favorite of the Native Americans this fragrant plant was used medicinally for many ailments. It was also popular with our Colonial people for tea and as a cure. Any plant with balm in its name is a sure fire medicinal plant.. It sure is appropriate that it blooms on July 4th because many say it was the tea substitute during the revolutionary war.
A square stem plant, fragrant Monarda is in the Labiatae family and is known to spread. It is a hardy perennial that will easily adapt to sun or shade and the hummingbirds love it.
The violet blues of butterfly bushes are beginning now too. But,the shy little gentian is the bluest of all. I had never seen a gentian when I had to memorize the poem October's Bright Blue Weather, in 6th grade. From that time on I wanted to see a gentian. I don't remember when I finally did, but it was well into adulthood. Now I grow them in the nursery
The gentian is found in many places of the world, but most often in mountain meadows. There are prairie and also bog gentians,and even some here in southern NJ.
These ancient plants date back medicinally to the second century BC when Gentius, King of Illyrua discovered their medicinal value. They were popular with the ancient Egyptians and continued to be regarded as a panacea until well past the Middle Ages. The bitter tasting roots were used against stomach complaints, ulcers and even skin problems. Used to stimulate appetite and digestive juices as well as cleansing wounds, the ancients made bitter liqueurs with gentian. I have recently planted some in my gardens, in part sun where they seem to do ok. While in Colorado I saw hundreds of them blooming in late August and early September in mountain meadows. Bluer than blue, blue as the sky, the beautiful gentian is a sign of fall to many, but they are in bloom now in New Jersey.
High summer in the garden is a great time in the garden! Everything is growing at a rapid speed. If you have vegetables, it is important to keep picking,feeding and watering so they keep producing. Remember with any annual crop,including flowers the more you pick,the more they produce! BUT, you have to supply food and water to keep the production going.We have never had such a lousy garden because the woodchuck is eating everything! We got rid of one, but there are several.
I find that getting on a daily schedule of maintenance, either in the morning for a few hours before going to work or at night after dinner helps keep up with the garden. It is a great opportunity to get much needed exercise as bending and weeding, hoeing, raking and pulling weeds are all very good for people of all ages! Keep moving and you won't rust! But I hate to do it when it is hot and humid. My husband Ted does however keep working in the garden in most weather.
We use lots of compost in our sandy soil but also feed most plants in the spring with osmocote, a time-release fertilizer. This, as well as all of the compost, leaves and straw put in all winter feeds the soil. Sometimes when beans or tomatoes just seem to peter out in late July it is because they are starving or too dry. When you water a lot to compensate for the hot, sunny weather,food leaches through the soil, so supplemental feedings are needed.
Now about those weeds! Think of it as a challenge, one that will keep you in shape. First, bend, bend, bend and pull all those weeds. Do 1/2 hour at first, and then work up to an hour a day whenever you can get the time. Soon you will love the early morning "weeding sessions". You will see and hear birds singing that you never saw or heard before, you might see different butterflies, smell fragrant blooms, meet a neighbor if you have any, or like me, just chill out. I can't wait to get outside.
Then after dinner each night, grab a handful of basil or orange mint and rub your arms and legs to keep the mosquitoes away and go out there again. You will use muscles you never knew you had, be sure to take deep breaths too. Pulling weds is good for a tired mind and body, it invigorates and refreshes. ( when it is too hot the bycycle wins out over weeding)
Another mid summer chore is to pick herbs for use and delight. The thyme is in pretty bloom, the nasturtiums are awesome and so bright and fragrant, the basil is lush and the dill is ripe for cucumbers ! Don't let them go to seed, but cut blooms and hang them up to dry. Tie up bunches with rubber bands to compensate for shrinkage and hang them in the kitchen, family room, or dinning area. They not only look pretty, they smell good too.
Remember that many of the insects, such as spiders, lady bugs, praying mantis and butterflies are an indication of a healthy environment. Don't be too quick to use chemicals since many of the beneficial insects will also be destroyed. Natural garden dusts of pyrethrum and sulfur can be sprinkled on plants such as eggplant or tomato when beetles are eating their foliage.
Remember, like the frog that became prince charming, some of the most ugly caterpillars become the most beautiful butterflies.
Make a red, white and blue bouquet in honor of our nation's birthday! Email Lorraine at firstname.lastname@example.org for info on two flower arranging classes coming up July 10 and July 23. Call 856-694-4272 for more information.