Monday, January 7, 2013

Reflections on the Summer Garden Part 1

                             Beebalm (Monarda Didyma)
Monarda didyma 'Raspberry Wine'

In the throes of winter, I like to reflect on the summer with all of its glorious warmth and welcoming garden treasures.  So let's start with a reflection on Beebalm!

Beebalm is a must-have deer resistant garden plant.  I honestly can't say enough good things about it!  Adaptable to almost any soil (mine grow in clay soil) these beautiful herb plants shine when in bloom.  Hardy to zones 3 (protection suggested in 3)-9 these lovelies are the plant of choice for hummingbirds and hummingbird moths.  As a member of the mint family they like to spread, but they are not quite as aggressive as their mint cousins.  I like to divide them every 2-3 years to keep up their vigor and also spread them to new places around the yard. 

Full to part sun will keep them happy.  Beebalm typically blooms from July well into August.  I've seen mine start blooming at the end of a particularly warm June.

 Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline' is irresistible to hummingbirds when it blooms.  A good mildew resistant variety.

During wet or humid summers or if plants are crowded (preventing good air flow) some varieties are prone to get powdery mildew.  Powdery mildew looks like fuzzy white patches and can cover the leaves and stems of the plant.  Personally, I turn a blind eye to the mildew and let nature take its course.  It won't kill the plants nor will it prevent them from blooming.  I'm also not a perfectionist!  If you prefer to combat mildew, choose an organic-use approved fungicide such as a copper based spray like Champ® or a product called Mildew Cure®. 

 Monarda didyma 'Blue Stocking' is my favorite!  A lovely heirloom variety from the 19th century.

Green budworms, although not common, can also bother certain varieties.  These small light green worms burrow into the buds of the flowers, sometimes destroying them before they can open.  Using organic sprays is a must in order not to harm the birds and bees that visit these flowers.  I find the best thing that works is an insecticidal soap, such as Safer®, sprayed on the buds at dusk.  Spraying at this time reduces the chances of beneficial insects and birds from coming into contact with it (just to be safe!).  It will also stay wetter longer with the absence of the sun to dry it up, as most organic sprays are only effective as long as they're wet.  Hand picking of the worms and destroying overly infested buds is also a great way to rid them from the garden.  

Be sure to read and follow the directions on any spray, should you decide to take that route.  Safety first, even in the garden!!  

Sanitation is key to help win the war on bugs and fungus.  At the end of the season be sure to remove all infected parts of the plant from the garden.  This will help reduce the chance of recurrence.

                               Monarda didyma 'Stones Throw Pink'  A lovely rosy color!

Beebalm is a New York native and was used by the settlers as far back as the 18th century.  It traveled by way of seeds to Europe in the mid-1700's and has since naturalized there.  Many hybrids have been cultivated since then.

The smallest beebalm grows to 12 inches and the larger varieties can reach up to 4 feet!  The taller varieties make a wonderful border plant.  Colors range from flaming red to mellow pinks and violet purples to white.

It's scented foliage has lemony undertones and has a wide range of uses in cooking, tea, medicines, and potpourri.  It's colorful edible flowers liven up fresh summer salads!

The flowers are perched upon strong stems and are a wonderful and long lasting cut flower for your summer bouquets.  

            Monarda didyma 'Raspberry wine'  Close-up shot.  Also a mildew resistant variety.

A truly endearing plant, Beebalm will surely become a favorite in your summer garden.  Between its colorful spiked blooms and the whimsical winged visitors that it attracts, you will have hours of enjoyment!


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