Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 23: Bee Balm

This summer the bee balm has become King of the Garden. A self-propagating perennial, each year it pops up in different places and in varying density. This year, however, it's outdone itself. Usually the tallest stalks are just visible at kitchen windowsill level. Today I noticed that the tallest plant is gaining on the top of the window, and its red buds haven't even fully opened yet. It's sort of like an out of control, seven-foot tall adolescent boy. And there aren't just a few plants scattered here and there--there are dozens. This is one patch of happy, dominating flowers.

The bee balm was given to us as a house-warming gift five years ago, and I was thrilled to receive it because I know it's a favorite of hummingbirds. My grandmother always had a patch, along with a yearly mass of nasturtiums, half a dozen hanging fuchsias, and about as many hummingbird feeders. Dozens of ruby-throated hummingbirds screamed around my grandparents' house all day long. Things are a bit less dramatic at our house. When the bright red bee balm blooms, I occasionally watch one hummer at a time visit the flowers while I'm eating at the kitchen table. A small excitement, but one I look forward to nonetheless, especially that moment when the male hovers in front of the window, flashing his ruby-colored gorget. (That's his throat, lest you think I'm being obscene.)

With this year's plants stretching more than halfway up the window, we should have a pretty good view when the hummers arrive at our one good nectar station. I've heard them buzzing around the neighborhood, but the only other flower blooming that might have attracted them thus far is a lobelia that's not visible from inside the house. So we have high hopes for our super-tall, super tempting, majestic bee balm.

Allure of ruby
flower draws the ruby-throat,
living gem itself.

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