July 24, 2013
If you'd like to add a bit of pastel lavender whimsy to your garden, two species of Monardas might be just what you're looking for. Neither are currently in my garden--all of these captures are from the wild. But I think you'll agree they're definitely garden-worthy.
Wild Bergamot (M. fistulosa), is prized for its color, sweet scent, and attractiveness to pollinators. Named a 2013 "notable native" by the Herb Society of America, Wild Bergamot is native to most of North America.
Other nicknames include Purple Bee Balm, Horsemint, and Oswego Tea. Wild Bergamot has a slight Citrusy scent, and is used in the flavoring of Earl Gray Tea.
It makes a great companion for golden Rudbeckias, Helianthuses, and Silphiums--all of which I saw blooming alongside or near it while capturing these photos.
I think the whimsical form of all the Bee Balms, including this one, makes them especially fun. They're great additions to butterfly, hummingbird, and rain gardens. Wild Bergamot is hardy in USDA zones 3-9, it prefers full to partial sun and dry to moderate moisture. It reaches heights of 2-4 feet, and grows best in well-drained loam, sand, or clay, but it will tolerate poor soils, according to the Herb Society of America.
Another Monarda I wasn't familiar with until recently is Spotted Horsemint (M. punctata). Other nicknames include Spotted Bee Balm and Dotted Mint. Although also native to most of North America, it appears to be less common in my state, based on various sources, including UW-Stevens Point's Freckmann Herbarium.
While closely related, these two Monardas are distinctly different in appearance except for their foliage form and pastel color. If you happen across M. punctata in the wild before it flowers, you might not notice it among thick blades of grass.
Here's a shot of it in the bud stage, before adding its unique lavender-tinted bracts and spotted blooms.
Spotted Horsemint reminds me of a Pineapple plant in its growth form. It also is hardy in USDA zones 3-9, has a sweet scent, and prefers full to partial sun and dry to moderate moisture. Slightly lower-growing (1-3 feet tall) than Wild Bergamot, Spotted Horsemint prefers sandy, well-drained soil--which is where I found it.
But the truly fun part about this wild Monarda can only be appreciated up close--its spotted, Orchid-like blooms.
I'm linking this post to Gail's Wildflower Wednesday, over at Clay and Limestone.