Monarda for miles

There's one plant that I question having in my garden every year, and that's Monarda or bee balm. I once grew three different types, but am now down to just one: 'Marshall's Delight'.


Its bee-attracting blooms are what save it ever year, because it has some problems. The first is that it spreads quite vigorously, but that doesn't bother me -- I deal with vigorous plants all the time. The second problem is that it is guaranteed to have powdery mildew every year.

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Here's just a taste of the mildew:


I sometimes try spraying it with the milk solution and that seems to help, but you have to spray fairly regularly and I don't think there's anything I do in the garden fairly regularly, as I often follow whims when I'm out there and don't have loads of time on most days.

Still, I put up with the mildew because of this:


I just love it! A patch of bee balm in bloom is a wonderful thing!

Yesterday, at the end of an unexpectedly difficult bike ride, I saw the mother of all Monarda patches:


Whereas my planting is about six feet in diameter, this sea of blooms is measured in acres!


I only had my phone on me so the photos aren't terrific, but imagine blooms as far as you can see...

Field of Monarda -- click for larger view

...on both sides of the road:

Bad color of poor phone camera, but you get the idea of how huge it is! (click for larger)

Just amazing! The fact that this is found in a County Park and not a Conservation Area or State Park makes it even more wonderful to me.

It was a really nice surprise!

This is probably Monarda bradburiana, a Missouri native. I should add some of this to my garden, as it's certainly pretty enough and reportedly has good mildew resistance -- although I did still see signs of it on these plants.

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Garden Fancy  – (June 30, 2014 at 8:39 AM)  

What a lovely surprise to find on your bike ride! Thanks for sharing it with those of us who can't remember the last time we rode a bike. :-)

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (June 30, 2014 at 10:36 AM)  

I tried monarda several times but I never got it to bloom. I don't know why. I see it in nurseries very ocasionally, but I've never seen it in anybody's garden around here. I wonder what makes it so difficult to grow in the west? It sure is beautiful.

Lisa  – (June 30, 2014 at 11:40 AM)  

We grow bee balm in pots - it's easy to control and never gets mildew. I love bee balm!

Alan  – (June 30, 2014 at 1:48 PM)  

Fancy: :) It could have been at the end of a long hike too, but the bike won out this day. Such fun!

Lisa: You may be in an area of the country that doesn't have powdery mildew problems, as I don't see how growing it in a pot would help.

Gerhard: M. bradburiana might be the one to look for, as it does better in dry spots it seems. It's top of my list to find now...

Mark and Gaz  – (June 30, 2014 at 3:54 PM)  

A large patch of it must have been a sight to behold indeed in person. Although your six feet patch seems just as good as conveying the value of its presence!

Alan  – (June 30, 2014 at 6:14 PM)  

Mark and Gaz: A large garden planting is nice, but a field full of any flower is an incomparable thing of beauty!

Rock rose  – (June 30, 2014 at 7:30 PM)  

What an amazing sight. I love Monarda and have finally found one that is reliable in Texas. Peter's purple. You are right about it spreading though.

Anonymous –   – (June 30, 2014 at 8:34 PM)  

I feel the same about monarda - with VA's humid summers, powdery mildew is a given, but boy oh boy, what a bee magnet...they don't call it bee balm for nuthin! What do you do after yours blooms? I keep mine up for winter interest but I might need to cut it down in the fall this year bec. I suspect four-lined bug overwintered in the stalks. http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/insects/plant-bugs/tarnished-and-four-lined-plant-bugs.aspx

Lisa  – (June 30, 2014 at 9:33 PM)  

Ha! You're right! I didn't mean to connect those two thoughts - the pots have nothing to do with the lack of mildew, I'm sure. But I can't grow phlox because of powdery mildew, so we definitely have it. Not sure why it leaves the monarda alone.

Charlie@Seattle Trekker  – (July 1, 2014 at 12:07 AM)  

I have been working on monarda in my garden for a couple of years. It is a bit damp for some of them. This year is my first real success.

Marie  – (July 2, 2014 at 3:54 PM)  

I share your ambivalence about monarda. I even tried ripping mine out, silly me. Now I let it grow were it will. I would love to see that field in person. Was the buzz deafening?

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