Monarda - Bee Balm, Bergamot, Horse Mint, Lemon Mint, Oswego Tea
DESCRIPTION: These are erect clumps of annual and perennial herbaceous plants that grow wild in North America. These plants can grow up to 3 feet high and are usually sold for the beauty of their striking blossoms. M. pectinata (the Lemon Mint) has thin leaves that are lanceolate to oblong and have the scent of lemons. It bears whorls of flowers that are up to 2 inches across and may be white to pink and purplish. The most popular kind is M. didyma (Oswego Tea, Bee Balm, or Bergamot), which has spicy, fragrant foliage. The Bergamot produces heads of flowers during the summer that each has a pincushion like center. The wild species mainly have red flowers, but modern hybrids may come in red, pink, purple, lavender, or white. These lovely flowers attract bees and hummingbirds. M. fistulosa, the Wild Bergamot, resembles M. didyma except that the plants are a little bit shorter and have smaller leaves. The flowers are usually lavender, but purple, pink, or white flowers occasionally occur in wild stands. This plant isn't as pretty as M. didyma, but it makes a better tea or tisane. Many garden varieties have also been developed.
POTTING: These plants will thrive in regular garden soil that is moist to on the dry side; they will tolerate drought. They should be in a position full of sun, except in warm summer climates, where light shade is preferred. You should feed your plants twice a year. Remove the dead flowers to prolong blooming. It rarely blooms the first season. Bergamot can become a pest in moist, fertile soil, so take care. The leaf tips of the Bergamot, M. didyma, may be cut 2 or 3 times during the summer and used dried or fresh in teas, tisanes, and potpourris. Wild Bergamot is cultivated and harvested the same way as M. didyma. Wild Bergamot prefers a well-limed, rather dry soil.
PROPAGATION: They may be divided in early spring and replanted at 18 inches apart. Seeds should be pre-chilled in the refrigerator and then planted inside, 8 to 10 weeks before it's safe to set outdoors, in a 70-degree temperature. Seeds may also be sown outside when the soil is warm. They will re-seed themselves.
VARIETIES: M. didyma; M. pectinata; M. fistulosa. Here are several garden varieties - Cambridge Scarlet, Croftway Pink, Mrs. Perry, Adam, Mahogany, violacea superba.
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