We Have A Great Deal To Look Forward To!
As a gardener, my entire DNA looks forward to the future. I have something to look forward to every time I plant a bulb, an annual, a perennial, or a tree. I have something to look forward to every time I see a catalog or a package of seeds. If gardeners can be defined by one characteristic, it is their absolute belief that things will get better. Even newer gardeners like my neighbors and daughters are asking questions about what they can plant next. Who knew that 2020 would see more millennials get to the garden than ever before and that 2020 would turn out to be such a bumper year for retailers, producers, and online sales of vegetables and ornamentals. Gardening provides hope!
There are so many parts of this thing we call gardening that fascinate me, and I love sharing my enthusiasm and knowledge with others. There is so much fun out waiting there in the garden patch, so many plants with stories, each raising their branches saying “Talk about me, talk about me” and yes, for those who want to learn, so much to discover!
Fascinated by Monarda
Lately, I have been fascinated by some of the native plants in my garden. One that I am thinking about as I write this is an old-fashioned plant that is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Botanists know it as Monarda, some of you know it as beebalm. National Garden Bureau has declared 2021 to be the Year of the Monarda…YAY! Something to look forward to!
This native plant was named for Nicholas Monardes, a physician from Seville who wrote about new world plants in the publication Joyfull Newse out of the newe founde Worlde in 1577. While that is interesting, the fact that the plant was thought to soothe stings and bites from various insects resulted in that common name of beebalm. A balm for bee stings, right in our own gardens, who knew?
However, this red-flowered pasture species was also found to be useful for something very much in demand by the settlers of the 1700s. With the boycott of tea from England in the 1770s (remember that famous party of 1773), a substitute was badly needed. As mentioned in the NGB “Year of the Monarda” article, Monarda leaves had been used as a tea in the Oswego watershed area of upstate New York for many years, and as poor a substitute as it was, it became rather common and took on the name of Oswego tea. I enjoy learning where names come from, and this is but one example of a story or two just waiting to be shared.
Try A New Monarda Variety
Personally, I still love the tall, exquisite ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ and ‘Raspberry Wine’, but if they are a little rangy, try the more compact forms like ‘Balmy’ (in pink, purple, or rose) and ‘Bee Happy’. While gardeners have more choices than ever, two problems can occur. Powdery mildew is still an issue so try to buy the resistant varieties. Monarda can also be quite aggressive in the garden; this is not necessarily a bad thing but you may soon be sharing more than stories with your gardening friends.
Before I leave you, I would be doing a great disservice if I didn’t mention the oft-ignored annual form lemon balm, Monarda citriodora. I forget all about it, but then I come across some and I must have it.
Written By: Allan Armitage
Author, Garden Courses, and Garden Plants App
“This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and our members. Please credit and link to National Garden Bureau when using all or parts of this article.”