Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Favorite Bee Balm

Day 170
The Daily DuBrule

I am a sucker for bee balm. I know, it has a host of faults. Powdery mildew tops the list, and it's just so spready. Invasive some call it. But it is simple to pull out, the roots are on the surface so if it creeps into areas where you don't want it, just rip it.

The mildew thing is another story. I don't like to spray. Organic products or not, it's just inconvenient. So I tend not to grow plants that get diseases easily. I make an exception for bee balm. The way I deal with it is I cut the front half of the plant in half in June. The back half blooms in July. If it gets mildew, I cut it to the ground after blooming. Then the front half blooms, a bit shorter and a few weeks later. That works for me.

My favorite bee balm is 'Mahogany'. It has remained in the top position for years. First of all, it is fairly mildew resistant. Second of all, I love the color. Most important, it lasts longer than any other and has colorful bracts that add to the show. 

In our semi-shaded garden under the tree in front of Natureworks I count on Monarda 'Mahogony' to fill in the blanks left by a bed filled with April blooming bulbs and a large stand of Virginia bluebells. As breathtaking as this site is in the spring, it is an empty, sad scene in early June. Enter my favorite bee balm together with a beautyberry (Callicarpa) which looks like dead sticks in April only to leaf out gracefully and burst into bloom, each arching branch clothed in dainty lavender flowers, just as the bee balm is flowering. They make a good match.

Needless to say, I also enjoy the fact that bee balm is a hummingbird magnet. And, I must add that the flowers are edible, they taste spicy, smoky, fruity and work well added to fruit salads. Pop a floret into your mouth the next time you run into a blooming bee balm in an organic garden and smile.

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