Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Downy-Wood Mint



About 60 years ago, when they plowed over and suburbanized Nashville's Oak Hickory forests to the west of the city, they left a small piece of that woodland behind this then new house. It wasn't very large by forest standards, but large enough that native trees like American Hophornbeam/ Ostrya virginiana, Redbud/Cercis canadensis, Oaks/Quercus, Shag Bark Hickories/Carya, Elms/Fraxinus, Persimmon/Diospyros and even a native privet were happy. There were also woodland wildflowers including Toad Lily, Trillium, Mayapple, Spiderwort, Penstemon, Downy Wood Mint and Columbine. If neighborhoods have memories, this one remembers its woodlands with Claytonia virginica covered lawns each spring.


We bought this house about 23 years ago and slowly discovered what sweet treasures the woods and edges held. I found the Downy-Wood Mint growing in the backyard near the seep where Penstemon X lives. He was growing in a dry grassy spot along with Lyre Leaf Sage and Western Daisy. It wasn't until we went away on vacation and left the backyard unmowed that I found Woody. He was so sweet and unusual looking that we decided to mow around him. What a happy accident! So much of my garden is just that....a happy accident!

Blephilia ciliata, as he is officially known, prefers dry limestone areas. So, you know he has to be happy here at Chez Cedar! We have plenty of dry and plenty of limestone.

Downy Wood-Mint is a member of the Lamiaceae family. He has the square stem sported by most mints and like his close cousins, bergamots, he has a dense whorl of bilabiate flowers at the upper leaf nodes. Bilabiate means having two lips.
If you get down very close to the flower you can see that there is a small corolla with two lips. Clicking will enlarge the photos and may help you see them a bit better. If you have some bergamot or monarda growing in your garden take a magnifying glass and check it out.

I love looking closely at flowers....there is so much to see up close and personal. They are always cooperative and I think enjoy the attention!





This shot from directly above makes me a bit dizzy, but I wanted you to see his form and how like the bergamots and monardas he is. Not as showy or as colorful, but a rather pleasant look with his light purple coloring with darker purple freckles.

Like members of the mint family he has simple and opposite leaves, the usual square stems and the two lipped corollas. Maybe he would root in water! I'll have to give that a try.

The mint family is large and many plants in our gardens are members: Perilla, Ajuga, Lamium, Phystostegia, Stachys, Salvias and our favorite weeds...Ground Ivy and Henbit. I knew there was a reason I liked them both!







He was quite happy hanging out in the grassy back lawn and we mowed around him until he flowered and went to seed. After he was moved to the richer soil in the wildflower garden, he blossomed beautifully But, he is a mint and has begun to show his minty ways! He is spreading beyond the boundaries and it looks like we are going to be doing some editing this fall. More to spread about the garden and share with wildflower enthusiasts.




This photo is taken from the left side of the Porch woodland garden. He is planted with
Japanese Maple, Variegated Solomon's Seal, Zigzag Golden Rod, Christmas Fern, volunteer Blackeyed Susans and
Phlox pilosa...[it is still blooming;->]. I like the combination....

What do you think of Downy-Wood Mint?


Gail

“Plant a little mint, Madame, then step out of the way so you don't get hurt!”
British gardener

28 comments:

  1. I think he is nice and I might not mind him in my garden. He does look like monarda! I knew about the square stem but not the two lips. Very good info I enjoy learning.

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  2. Tina,

    Hi, I commented this morning on your great snake and skink post but wasn't sure if it showed up...I will check in a moment...

    The mints are fun plants but being mints they do like to travel some...have you seen this guy in the woods?

    Gail

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  3. A very attractive mint! I doubt you will have trouble propagating him via water. Mints love to live! I haven't noticed him before but maybe I haven't really looked close enough. Have you ever tried making tea from it?

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  4. Dave,

    No I haven't...it never occurred to me! It's not an aromatic mint at all so he might not brew a good taste. But he is cute...I bet he's in the woods near your in laws place.


    Gail

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  5. I am not sure if I have seen it but with the great info you posted, I will definitely be on the lookout! It might migrate its way to my garden...

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  6. Tina,

    I can get you some, no problem...I have a little Tina section...Phlox, Hypericum and now Wood mint.

    Gail

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  7. Thanks! I am still planning to come down but with all going on from now until the last week of June-I am literally overwhelmed. I usually don't get this way but it is all catching up and I need to focus. Travel is not going to help right now-but who knows? I might surprise myself and get all done quickly. Yeah right! Nothing in the garden is ever quick!

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  8. I loved the idea of flowers being cooperative and liking personal contact :) LOL.
    Your mint is very lovely and gracious in the woods,
    Greetings,

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  9. Gail: I'm not familiar with many of the cultivars you've named her but I can tell you I like your downy-wood mint. It is a lovely color and delicate looking it its puffy bloom. Don't you just love all the blends of wild looking plants growing in your back gardens? I just love the way it all mixes together. What is that plant (not flowering)with the yellowy edges close to the mint (next to last photo more towards the front of the photo)? ANd what is the deep wine foliage plant behind the mint in the first photo?
    Very nice photos, gail.
    Meems @hoe&shovel

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  10. Ewa,

    Hello to you! I like that about plants, too...I do believe that if you love them they love it!


    gail

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  11. Meems,

    I was very lucky that we were poor and I didn't have it all ripped out...I have grown as a gardener!

    Beebalm is the name we are all familiar with...I ought to have used that instead of monarda or bergamot. So many plants are members of the mint plant, I was totally surprised that Ajuga was....until I thought about the shape of the flower and the square stems. Do you have Perilla, sometimes called Beef Steak Plant....quite a thug.

    Variegated Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum') and the burgundy is the Japanese Maple Bloodgood. The problem with being an amateur photographer is that perspective gets warped!

    BTW, The Solomon's Seal grows all the way down to Zone 9b...would that be your zone?

    Gail

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  12. Monarda was my first thought too, Gail - rather than beebalm or bergamot. I guess the closest thing here might be Horsemint/Monarda citriodora?

    I like the way you let your natives and garden plants like the Japanese maple and Variegated Solomon's Seal sort of weave together, and the colors blend beautifully.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  13. How lucky that your property included intact woodland. That mint is a little charmer!

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  14. Annie,

    They do look alike, the Horsemint and the Downy Wood Mint...I appreciate the link. Learning about plants is a delightful way to spend time.

    I do let them ramble about and interweave. Most of the time I love the look, but in the in between times, when blooms are infrequent, it can look like a sea of green. That is why there is some variegated plantings and Japanese Maples.

    I would packalong the Downy Wood Mint.

    Gail

    Gail

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  15. MMD,
    Many treats came from the woodlands and from the Old Oak-Hickory-Red Cedar Forest that was once here.

    I like the mint, too.

    Gail

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  16. I think it's grand. I always confuse people when I say all salvias are sages and all sages are salvias and all are mints----they go huh? Looks like you have a lot of interesting things to look at while I've been away chasing robbers. I've missed ya. But I am working on a new blog. My husband is recouping from the world or gardeners attacking us with hoes and shovels. So I think he's allowing me to open another blog if I'm careful and don't list my address again--lol.

    It was on the sale of our old home!! If the robbers tracked me to my new home through that link--then they were desperate for my tv cause that's all I have that's worth anything. That kind of thing can't be helped I suppose--anyway--I'll be bugging you again soon and sitting on your back steps waiting on you to come out and play.
    Anna--Flowergardengirl..waiting on my new plot to grow.

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  17. Hi Gail, how did I miss this post? Out in the garden I guess. Thanks for telling the story of the intact woodland and all it has to offer an ecology sensitive homeowner who had the sense not to clear it and plant zinnias. And PPP is still going? Call the people at the Guiness book of world records!
    Frances

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  18. Anonymous Anna,

    Welcome...have missed our coffee times...I didn't know about the robbery....I must have been out of town. I have been away a lot but no more. Anyway, so sorry you were robbed of anything.

    It's in between times in the garden but then I have a huge wildflower spring and am working to have more than a sea of green.

    Gail

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  19. Frances,

    Yes, it is still blooming! Not profusely but it's still out there...

    Well, we were younger with a small child and I couldn't afford to do anything foolish! So I wandered around and used what I found, wasn't I lucky?

    Gail

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  20. I love the quote about the mint Gail .. it really made me laugh this morning .. I don't know how many times I have heard that from novice gardeners.
    This is one cute native .. and so much like bee balm .. reminds me of liatris with the furry fingers ?
    Sorry .. morning brain still in bed .. what an amazing area you have to wonder around with your home !
    Joy

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  21. joy,

    Yes I like it a lot...there is this one problem....ticks....I hate them and having pulled three off of me the other day...I hesitate to spend much time any place where they may be hanging out!

    The wayback has gotten quite unruly, there are lots of reasons but I need to hire (where is that lottery ticket) some strong backs to do some bush honeysuckle clearing.

    I am so glad you liked the quote...it made me laugh, too.


    gail

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  22. You're fortunate to have found treasures in your woods. Ours are still so wild I come down with a horrid case of poison ivy anytime I go near. What to do...

    Robin at Bumblebee

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  23. Robin,

    Have I told you about Zanfel...it works for me, washes it off and takes the itch away if I get PI...This cure is drastic, but if I have been out near PI, I wash my hands and arms with comet! Then apply lots of lotion! My clothes go into the washer immediately and get washed with bleach...my garden clothes look terrible! I am a lovely site to behold!

    Gail

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  24. There is something pleasant to look at flowers up close. It's very comforting for some reason. And living near woodlands... that's awesome! Beautiful flowers. They make me want to snuggle up to their fuzzy petals! :-)

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  25. DP,

    Thanks, I am thoroughly enjoying your blog and glad you joined us. Isn't blogging fun...it's a whole different way to play.

    Gail

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  26. How fortunate you are to have all these lovely wildflowers near your house. A great informative post!

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  27. Rose,

    Thanks...I was really lucky to find them and figure out what to do with them...and what to do with this rather difficult yard....all the clay (it's yellow) and the limestone.

    Gail

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  28. What a neat plant. I don't recall ever seeing that one before.

    Right now I have some mint that has escaped its location and needs to be beaten back.

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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