It never occurred to me that the feathery, bee-laden Monardas happily populating the sunnier patches of my landscape were the stuff of Haute Horticouture. Too common. Too artless. Too friendly.
But then I noticed the dynamic pose struck by this young Bee Balm. One leaf gestures with confidence, arrow-head straight, while the other is gently rounded, pointing earthwards. The red, tubular flowers reveal themselves gradually, with just the suggestion of a double emerging from its crown. How could I have missed this!?
Not long after, this other specimen took center stage, and could hardly be more alluring. Here was a more mature sense of self-possession, knowing how much (or how little) to reveal. How much stem to show in order to balance out the sly tilt of the double (veiled by the artfully veined sepals). She even knew which way to turn for the most flattering light. My admiration knew no bounds.
However, all this flash and attitude has its limits. I was beginning to ache for a quieter, more subtle expression. And, on the other side of my propane tank, I found the soft beauty I was looking for.
Monarda didyma 'Blaustrumpf'
These two charming 'Blaustrumpf's glowed with an innocent yet powerful grace. They drew me to the shade, to the subtlety of flat, even light, to a more natural look. No artifice here. A pose without posing. Naked existence as elegance. With the tank providing a nice, neutral backdrop, I'd even discovered a new approach to domestic landscape photography:
Industrial Chic for the Garden
Alas, I find I have a limited tolerance for youth's scrubbed, pretty face and admit to a weakness for the more theatrical side of nature. (And the propane guy had just arrived to fill the tank). So this jester's hat of a Bee Balm bloom brought me back into the sun. No secrets here, just the generous eruption of scarlet petals in a sea of unfocused green.