Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Monarda Didyma (Bee Balm) Is Blooming

I planted this mother monarda didyma plant last year on June 14.  It stayed mostly low to the ground, competing for space with all the gazanias surrounding it. I had to dig out a clearing in the middle of the gazanias. You can see the monarda (bee balm) freshly planted there near the center of the photo. That was a good year for gazanias, which bloom yellow, but they don't bloom as much in this partial shade as they do in full sun all day. 

I planted the bee balm here because I wanted its red flowers to contrast with the green and yellow around it. It took the monarda longer to bloom that first year. The flowers were few. Maybe all that competition from the gazanias hurt it, and I had planted it later than I should have. In the photo below you can see how it looked in its surroundings when it did bloom. The photo was taken in the middle of August. The bee balm flower is the one rising in back over the other flowers. The photo is a bit over exposed so the red color is faint. The flowers in front are opal basil, borage, catmint (in the pot), African basil, and calendula. 

During our very cold winter, most of the gazanias died back, as did all the basils, leaving less competition. In the early spring.  I thought the monarda had died, too. I didn't see it anywhere. I thought this was a perennial plant, but I've never had it last more than one year.

This spring, several monarda plants sprung up in a row. The mother plant must have reseeded itself. I saw the first bud on May 25. See it in the photo to the right? I took the photo from the back of the flower bed looking out toward the dying lawn. 

To the right of the foreground is my mullein, with the very large leaves, which I planted last year. It's a biennial which should bloom this year. I think it was attacked by a tomato hornworm I found on a borage plant in this flower bed. I have the snails under control.

You can see the row of blooming monardas below. They almost appear to be dancing. Some of the gazanias in back are reviving, but not enough to give my bee balm much competition. I hope my bee balm reseeds again next year. I would like to have an entire clump back there next June. 

I grow monarda primarily for its ornamental value. I'm also hoping it will attract hummingbirds and bees as it is supposed to.  My Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs  tells me bee balm flowers are also tasty in salads and the leaves are good for tea. I just may experiment with the culinary uses of monarda this year. 

Have you ever grown monarda? If so, it it meet your expectations? Have you used it in the kitchen or for medical conditions? I'd love to have you share your experiences. 

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