Another plant I miss

Yesterday I started looking at plants I once grew and now miss. I have another one today, but this one is a bit different.

It's Monarda or "Bee Balm", and looking at these photos I really wish I had it back in my garden.


Its minty foliage, ability to fill a significant space quickly, beautiful blooms... why did I ever stop growing this beauty?

The larger bees (bumbles and carpenters) really loved these blooms, as did the hummingbirds.

When exactly did I remove this? Here it is in 2006 when the patio was brand new:

It's still here in 2007 too, although not in bloom in this photo:

And that photo reminds me of why this plant is no good for my garden. Although it starts out the year wonderfully fresh and blooms like nothing else, it doesn't like the heat and humidity of summer here and starts looking terrible. It gets powdery mildew, and spraying even twice a week barely seems to help. Many leaves drop and the plant just starts looking bad.

Two months of wonderful followed by two months of ugly got old after a few years, and I pulled the plant out.

I should mention that this is the classic 'Gardenview Scarlet' bee balm. I still grow one other variety of Monarda: 'Marshall's Delight'.  It does get powdery mildew too, but it doesn't end up being as ugly as this one was. Unfortunately it doesn't have the flaming red blooms either.

So as lovely as it looks in these photos, and as much as I may miss it, I'm not going to be growing 'Gardenview Scarlet' again. Sigh.


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scottweberpdx  – (December 21, 2012 at 9:02 AM)  

Sadly, you are so right about Monarda. It's so sad to see a plant that is SO VIGOROUS suddenly get covered in Mildew. I have a very robust Monarda, 'Raspberry Wine', which is fine some years, but can get covered in others. It is the only plant I use any sort of spray on...I found an organic fungicide that works fairly well, but you have to almost spray it weekly for it to remain effective. Even in my small garden, it's annoying. I had a red one, 'Jacob Cline', however, that never once got mildew...however, it was sort of straggly...not full and lush (and I wasn't fond of the red)...but you might want to give it a try somewhere that you won't have to look at it's knobby knees. Also I planted Monarda bradburiana this year, and while much shorter than most didn't seem to get mildew at all :-)

Alan  – (December 21, 2012 at 9:18 AM)  

Scott: nice tip about the Monarda bradburiana. It's a Missouri native that handles dry soils better than the Gardenview Scarlet -- lack of ample moisture is probably what made it decline each summer. Just wish the bradburiana had red flowers, as I've got plenty of pink/purples already.

Heather  – (December 21, 2012 at 12:02 PM)  

This is a timely post as I have bee balm in my garden as well that I have considered removing next spring. While I don't have the mildew problems you describe, it just looks ratty after it blooms. I usually cut it down after the blooms are spent, leaving a gaping hole in the garden.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (December 21, 2012 at 12:22 PM)  

I tried 'Jacob Cline' twice. Unfortunately, my experience was similar to Scott's. No mildew, but an unattractive, weak plant. Please, somebody, breed us a vigorous mildew-resistant cultivar that is lush and beautiful!!!

Jason  – (December 21, 2012 at 9:20 PM)  

Now this is one I still have. I've found 'Raspberry Wine' to be quite mildew-resistant, I'm thinking of putting some in the back. It also combines well with shrubby asters like Short's aster. Also the wild bergamont, Monarda fistulosa, is pretty reliable. The flowers are like bee balm but smaller and lavendar.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax!  – (December 22, 2012 at 1:51 AM)  

As soon as I clicked 'publish' a large part of this post popped up that hadn't been visible until that moment so I hadn't got as far as its downsides.

ricki  – (December 22, 2012 at 1:46 PM)  

I've had this experience many times: fall in love with a plant in someone else's garden because I just happen to see it in its moment of glory; go to extremes to hunt it down; find out later that its moment lasts only briefly; go to further extremes getting rid of it. I now pay close attention to posts like these. Thanks for the warning.

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