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