Posts Tagged Scarlet Wild Basil
I’m seeing a variety of reds in my landscape these days, most of it not attributable to leaf color — that will come later. Red flowers and fruits — and related colors in that family — are visible in nearly every corner of my yard. I think of them as stop signals; they alert me to slow down and linger with the lovelies in my landscape before all that beauty fades.
Ripening seeds are also sporting red colors, signaling wildlife that fruits are ready for consumption.
Vermillion spires of Cardinal Flowers set fire to shady spots on my floodplain and random, self-sowed corners of perennial beds.
Magenta heads of a cluster of late-blooming Joe Pye Weed glow in a spotlight beam of sun that managed to pierce the dense canopy.
Green frogs float on my green pond, their bulging eyes watching summer’s waning as they seek unwary winged meals.
In this year of few butterflies, Spicebush Swallowtails are the most common large butterfly in my landscape, possibly due to the abundance of native spicebushes tucked under the towering canopy trees.
An occasional Eastern Tiger Swallowtail floats through the humid late-summer heat, unable to resist the potent perfume of the Chinese Abelia bushes dotting the sunnier parts of my landscape.
The native Umbrella Magnolia that thrives beside the creek produced quite a few seed cones this year. Even tucked into deep shade, the ripe cones stop my forward progress, demanding admiration.
Native to the Sandhills region of NC, my Scarlet Wild Basil continues to produce abundant orange-red blossoms, drawing daily visits from hummingbirds, and admiring questions from visitors.
Like hummingbirds, Spicebush Swallowtails often hover as they feed, blurring my photographs as they rush to drink all they can before summer’s flowers disappear.
As soon as they are fully ripe, the reddened berries on native Mapleleaf Viburnum are devoured by wildlife.
Slowly and methodically, the Praying Mantises in my landscape grow fat on the insect bounty attracted to summer’s blooms. This one hunted from a large lantana beside my front door for three days, then moved on to new territory.
Everywhere I look, Nature’s signals are clear. Animals fatten, seeds ripen, blooms explode in late-summer splendor. All feel the changing angle of the sun as it makes its daily trek across the sky. Soon, too soon, cold air will descend from the North, browning flora, scattering fauna.
But every gardener knows that winter sleeps are essential rhythms in Nature’s dance. The pauses make the crescendos that much more powerful.
I’ve been coveting Scarlet Wild Basil (Clinopodium coccineum) for years. It is one of the summer-blooming stars of the Sandhills Native Habitat Garden at the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel HIll. I’m not the only one who admires it. The Greenhouse and Nursery Manager at the NCBG tells me that it is one of the most frequently requested plants by folks visiting the Plant Sale area of the Garden. He can’t keep it in stock.
This native of the Sandhill regions of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi has many common names besides Scarlet Wild Basil, including Scarlet Calamint, Red Savory, Red Mint Shrub, Scarlet Balm, and Red Basil. The evergreen, opposite-leaved foliage is mildly aromatic, which probably explains most of its names. In my garden, it has, so far, proved to be uninteresting to deer or other varmints, probably due to its spicy-smelling foliage.
I was able to acquire a tiny plant from the NCBG last fall. It was too small for sale in the Plant Sale area yet, but I persuaded the Nursery Manager that I could coax the little specimen through the winter. I am delighted to say I succeeded.
Here in NC, we are technically outside the native range of Scarlet Wild Basil. One of our rare, very cold winters might well kill it. Likewise, because it is native to sandy soils, too much rain can also destroy it.
Luckily for me, I have a spot in my yard that is, more or less, a natural rock garden. Massive boulders adorn a spot beside my garage, probably resulting from when the original owner of my home put in the driveway. These boulders have begun to break down a bit, and the soil around them is a shallow mix of sand and bits of rock — ideal for plants that need sharp drainage and can benefit from the extra warmth of heat-absorbing boulders.
Even so, I built up the sand into a little hill before I planted my tiny Scarlet Wild Basil last October. Then I surrounded the plant with small rocks, to add heat, and to prevent heavy rains from eroding the sand away from the base of the plant. Our winter was dry, so about every three weeks if it hadn’t rained, I watered the newcomer thoroughly.
My attentiveness paid off. It began blooming a bit in April, and it’s been blooming off and on ever since. The excessive rains of June here slowed flower production, but now the plant seems to be trying to make up for lost time. It is a bloom-producing machine! And the hummingbirds are delighted by this addition to my landscape. Further south, it has been observed blooming every month of the year.
In its native range, this plant can grow to between 1-3 feet tall and wide. Mine will probably remain on the smaller side of that range, because I’m pushing its tolerance for cold a bit. Right now, it’s about 1.5 feet tall and spreads about 2 feet across.
Even though it’s petite, you can’t miss those orange-red tubular blossoms, especially with the boulders behind it as background. I continue to be delighted by this recent addition to my landscape — and the hummingbirds agree!