Tag Archives: bee balm

Plant combo of the week: Bee balm and ‘Karl Foerster’ grass

You knew it wouldn’t be long before I featured an ornamental grass in a “Plant Combo of the Week” post and you would be correct. This one is brutally simple with the two plants available at every garden center around.

I give you Monarda (Bee Balm) and Calamagrostis acutiflora (Feather Reed Grass) ‘Karl Foerster’.

This combo peeks in early summer when the Bee Balm is in full bloom and smelling deliciously minty and ‘Karl Foerster’ blooms have settled into their long lasting buff color.

Take a step back in my garden and you’ll see that I also have them matched up with Joe Pye Weed which blooms the latest of the three.

But we’ll keep it simple for now and keep Joe Pye Weed and my exquisite design skills out of it.

I’d love to tell you that I masterminded this pairing from the beginning but of course I didn’t. The Karl Foerster grasses have been in this location for years with the only upkeep being a quick trim to the ground in late winter. By that time, new signs of growth are already evident since Karl is a cool season grass.

I should add one more piece of maintenance. Every three years I divide these grasses and as a result, have a ton throughout my garden. It couldn’t be an easier task and the divided sections are so quick to establish, with the only requirement being supplemental watering if divided during a dry time.

The Karl Foerster grasses look great spring, summer and even into fall, when the blooms shine when back lit by the late afternoon sun.

The Bee Balm started as three tiny little plugs that I shoved in an open spot at the end of the gardening season and in three year’s time, they have exploded.

Are they invasive? I would say they are “aggressive spreaders” but I have no issue pulling those that jump out of bounds and planting the piece in another spot or gulp, tossing them into the compost pile.

In case you weren’t already aware, Bee Balm attracts visitors like mad and provides endless hours of entertainment and photo opportunities all summer.

 

 

 

Even after the blooms fully fade in late summer, they still look  great with their brown seed heads.

 

And all the way into winter.

Both plants thrive in my clay soil, don’t mind some wet feet from time to time and are 100% ignored by the deer and rabbits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The latest and not always greatest in the garden

Some observations from out in the garden:

This white bee balm is the only one to have survived last winter and while it is nice to see it blooming, it honestly doesn’t do much for me and the powdery mildew is real bad, worse than with all of the other bee balm. We don’t know until we try, right?

white bee balm

 

Right plant for the right location = happiness, as seen with the Physostegia (Obedient Plant) below. This first photo was taken back in May when I dug up and divided a massive batch of these and relocated them to my newly extended and very empty garden bed.

divided obedient

Two months later and they are thriving in a very wet and full sun location. I am very psyched for the massive pink display to arrive next month.

obedient vivid

 

You’ve all seen all of my numerous pics of Veronica ‘Royal Candles’ and read my raving reviews of this perennial but in the spirit of my last post and with full disclosure, here is the reality of the “legs” on these right now.

veronica bad

Fortunately, I’ve shielded most of them with other low lying plants so the blooms remain the attraction.

veronica good

 

I love how one ‘Karl Foerster’ grass (Calamagrostis) can break up a mass of perennials and not only lend a different height/uprightness, but a different texture as well.

front bed

 

I cleared this area of nasty Canada Thistle by cutting them all at soil level and not by attempting to pull out the roots like a dope which has failed me miserably for years now since it actually multiplies the number of weeds when pieces of root break off.

thistle path

I will now finally track the results properly. Here is one example of the cutting.

thistle cut

And about one week later. I’m going to now cut it back again soon and will continue to do so until it kills itself by sapping all of the plant’s energy. Or so I hope. More to come.

thistle

 

I just purchased a few ‘Delft Lace’ Astilbes solely because I fell in love with the red stems and red tinged foliage. I’ll be sure to track this one for you and hopefully I don’t fry them since you know, they need constant moisture and it is the dead of summer. Smart.

delft astilbe

 

My attempt at a path with a true destination worth visiting.

 

These purplish bee balm are incredible right now and are my favorite current place in the garden. 

planter bed 2

 

planter bed

 

bee balm 2

They are bringing in a ton of visitors. 

hummingmoth 2

 

butterfly bee balm 2

 

Check out all of the action with this video.

QOTD – Where do you purchase most of your plants? And I want specific names and locations please.

Thank you.

 

Bee Balm (Monarda)

I spent a few hours outdoors this morning tending to some spring cleaning chores – cutting down the dead perennial foliage, shearing down the smaller ornamental grasses and making my son pull the exposed poison ivy vines (he is not allergic). As I was traversing the garden, clearing the dead growth and looking for emerging foliage, I came to a realization I hadn’t really well, realized before: my garden is dominated by Bee Balm.

The purple-green rosettes are everywhere right now.

bee balm rosettes

bee balm rosettes 3

bee balm rosettes 2

I’ve written previously about Bee Balm thrives in my wet clay soil and does it ever multiply in no time wherever I’ve planted it. And not in an invasive way. The underground rhizomes spread happily and fill in empty spots along the way. If it ever stretches where I don’t want it, I simply pull it out by the roots and plant it somewhere else in the garden.

At this point in time, I have so many different cultivars of Bee Balm (Monarda) that I’ve forgotten all of the names. All I know is that they all bloom like mad starting in early summer and the blooms last for weeks, and even longer if they are deadheaded along the way.

Bee Balm looking good in late spring, even before the blooms have revealed themselves.

bee balm

And kicking butt and taking names when in bloom.

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Drawing in the bees and other critters.

monarda

bee

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They look great even as the blooms start to fade in mid summer.

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And remain interesting into winter.

bee balm frost

bee balm winter

Some additional facts on this perennial:

  • Prefers full sun but will adapt well to partial shade
  • As mentioned previously, prefers damp soil and thrives in clay
  • On average, the size maxes out at 2 to 4′ x 1.5 to 3′
  • Blooms from early summer through late summer
  • Survives in zones 4-9
  • North American native, typically in moist woodlands
  • The leaves/stems have a fantastic orange-like scent
  • As a result of the scent, it is deer resistant
  • Bee Balm is prone to powdery mildew if not given proper air circulation. Personally, I find it easy to deal with by simply ignoring late in the season and allowing the leaves to fall followed by a simple clean-up.
  • Monarda also known as Bee Balm also known as Oswego tea, was introduced by the Oswego Indians to botanist John Bartram who learned of its healing powers when brewed as a tea. It was used to treat chills, fever, insect bites and even bronchial congestion.

I planted a white cultivar of Bee Balm last spring and I’m hoping it really takes off this year. Either way, prepare yourself for even more Bee Balm pics this gardening season.

 

Winter garden appreciation

I despise the cold weather and it is getting worse and worse as I get older.

I hate the snow and I do not find it to be the least bit “cozy”. It physically hurts my eyes to even glance at it.

I don’t ski and find sledding to be way overrated.

But even after having said all that, I have come to appreciate the winter garden. It is a reminder of what was, a chance to rest and recharge and at the same time, a promise of what is to come.

I recently put on my big boy pants and a warm jacket, and set out to capture just some of the plants in the winter garden. After reviewing all of the photos I had taken, I realized that I had similar shots of those same plants during the spring and summer. So as a means of contrast, I’ve included the most current pic and then one from earlier when it warm and delicious outdoors.

Enjoy.

Tropical milkweed, which is an annual and one that reseeded for me this past year.

milkweed winter

milkweed

 

Eupatorium ‘Wayside’ which looks like the annual Ageratum but is truly a perennial.

winter garden

wayside

 

A combo of Bee Balm, Joe Pye Weed and Clethra ‘Hummingbird’.

winter garden

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Juniper ‘Wichita Blue’, Bee Balm and Panicum ‘Rots’.

winter garden

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Salix ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ (Dappled Willow) with its awesome stem colors.

salix winter stems

salix

 

Amsonia tabernaemontana looking cool and curly. Still a personal favorite of mine during all seasons.

amsonia winter

amsonia2

 

I love the dried seed capsules of Baptisia and admittedly have yet to explore how to save the seeds. That is what winter is all about, research and reading.

baptisia seed capsules 2

moth baptisia

 

Sedum ‘Red Carpet’ peeking through what little snow we have right now.

red carpet winter

sedum

 

And old reliable, the Purple Coneflower. I always enjoy watching the finches pay a visit and feast on the seedheads.

coneflower winter

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Deer resistant perennials for wet soil

A friend in town, who only recently became aware of this life changing blog, asked me for some plant recommendations. Oh shit. Typically I am not a fan of doling out plant advice because the pressure can become crippling.

If the recommended plant doesn’t survive, I’m scorned at the next basketball game.

If the suggested choice can’t be found at the local nursery, I’m no longer trusted and the kids aren’t invited to any more birthday parties.

But I’m putting it all on the line today.

Without fear.

I am that confident with the choices I’m about to offer up. The following perennials (staying away from grasses for now; he’ll have to buy me lunch first) are very specific to the conditions we have here in zone 6B New Jersey. Throw in deer and rabbits galore.  And a high water table which leads to very poor draining soil.

So my local homey, here are the top 7 perennials that I can vouch for based on my personal experience. Each has thrived for at least 5 years running and all show no signs of slowing down.

Click on the hyperlink for each plant name for additional info where applicable.

You are welcome in advance.

#1 – Joe Pye Weed close to 6 feet tall, blooms are long lasting, attracts numerous critters  and looks good all the way into the fall.

joe pye weed

joe pye and miscanthus

 

#2 – Amsoniathe deer have never touched it, great bluish blooms in spring followed by fine textured foliage all summer. But Fall is when it shines with unbelievable colors ranging from yellow to orange.   

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amsonia

amsonia

 

#3 – Astilbeno critter has ever touched it, appreciates oodles of moisture, blooms in white and pink and red in late spring and the fern like foliage separates itself from others.   

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astilbe3

 

#4 – Bee Balmthe scent keeps the deer at bay, the bees flock to it and the blooms last all summer and even into fall. I personally love the taller options which make their presence known in the garden.

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#5 – Purple Coneflower – yes they are everywhere but it is still an oldie but goodie. Multiplies like mad so there is a full supply year to year. Consistent blooms without a care in the world.   

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#6 – Lobelia – cherishes the waterlogged soil and provides late summer blooms.

lobelia2

blue lob

 

#7 – Mountain Mint not the showiest, but what a critter magnet. I could stand over these in bloom all day.

mint2

mint

We’ll talk again in spring dude but start doing your homework now if you want to continue to hang with me.

Transplanting my excess Monarda (Bee Balm)

As I was recently stressing/obsessing over how to fill in some bare spots in my garden, three things came to mind:

  • New plants are expensive
  • I have a somewhat limited range of plants that work with my conditions
  • Repetition in the garden is good and pleasing to the eye

With that in mind, the obvious choice was to take my excess Monarda (Bee Balm) plants and relocate them to where they can spread to their heart’s content.

Nothing has thrived in my garden more the past few years than Monarda as they have easily doubled in size in just the last two years alone. I love the fact that they spread and fill in aggressively without acting as a true thug.

I started with this location as you can see they are starting to take over the neighboring Juniper:

Why not grab a few that are closest to the Juniper and simply dig them out and move them:

I find it incredibly simple to just place a trowel into the soil underneath the stem of plant, wiggle it a bit to loosen up the roots and then yank it out with my hand:  

And just like that, you have yourself a new plant. You can clearly see from the roots how this perennial spreads so easily:  

I quickly determined where to move my new Bee Balm. This one was going to be relocated between two Miscanthus:

In it went:

And then to assist in the plant’s establishment, I snipped off the spent flowers and all of the leaves so the plant’s energy could be focused on root development (Quick note – I made the decision to do it this way on my own and cannot vouch if I did everything scientifically correct here):

The plant was then deeply watered and left to do its thing. Now we just wait and see how it all plays out.

I moved close to ten of these Monarda and a bunch of Purple Coneflowers as well and it didn’t cost me a dime. They are the gift that keeps on giving.

By the way, I am well aware of the powdery mildew on my Bee Balm:

I even wrote a post about it last year (which you can read here).

My typical move is to cut these down to the ground around this time each year but I’m leaving them all alone this year just to see if it truly causes any future issues. I also enjoy the spent blooms in the fall and covered in snow in winter.

Damn this stuff is fun isn’t it?      

A garden update

What’s been doing in my garden these days:

Monarda (Bee Balm) is reliable, spreads as I need it to, has great color and attracts the critters:

 

 

My Purple Coneflower/Russian Sage combo is the oldest in my garden and never disappoints:

 

Hot damn, I love this Helenium (Sneezeweed) ‘Short n Sassy’:

The first of the Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) to bloom. This is ‘Baby Joe’:

The Physostegia (Obedient Plant) is blooming weeks before it ever has before:

Phlox’n awesome:

Man do I love daylillies (‘Little Grapette’) … pause for effect … look up hypocrite in the dictionary … lose my street cred:

 

 

First Coneflower “Sunshine’ bloom:

Awaiting first Coneflower ‘Fragrant Angel’ blooms:

Filling in nicely:

 

 

Assessing the blooms

It is a shock to see actual healthy looking blooms out in the yard this time of year. Even a blind squirrel …
OK, enough of the false modesty, here is what I am seeing in good old rural New Jersey this early summer 2013:
Yes, they are everywhere, but I still love the combo of purple coneflowers and russian sage, especially when the coneflowers actively re-seed, giving it all a much more natural look:

Monarda (Bee Balm) ‘Colrain Red’ in front of a soon to be blooming Clethra ‘Hummingbird’:

The first signs of bloom on ‘Baby Joe’ Joe Pye Weed. I am so psyched to have located these dwarf versions of the original:

Plant name, no idea; it is everywhere in the wild growth around my property and some snuck into my man-made garden. Pretty cool:

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) emerging (in front of Panicum ‘Northwind’):

Mountain Mint is so understated but that is why I love it … that and all the bugs it attracts:

I have no idea which phlox this is; got three for $1.99 and I couldn’t resist, powdery mildew be damned:

The garden is coming together

This weekend was the first time I noticed that the garden was starting to “pull it all together”. By that I mean, it is becoming less and less about the individual plants and more about how they act together as a whole. A collection of plants is becoming a “garden”.
Here are some samples of the “garden”:
Panicum (Switch Grass) ‘Rotstrahlbusch’, Monarda (Bee Balm) and Juniper ‘Wichita Blue’

Achillea ‘Moonwalker’, Sedum ‘Matrona’ and Sorghastrum (Indian Grass) ‘Sioux Blue’ 

Too many mention

Astilbe ‘Deutschland’ and Physocarpus (Ninebark) ‘Diablo’

Mountain Mint, Panicum (Switch Grass) ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ and Monarda (Bee Balm)

Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ and Miscanthus ‘Variegatus’

Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’, Viburnum ‘Emerald Lustre’ and Amsonia (Eastern Bluestar) ‘Tabernaemontana’

Again, too many to mention

Viburnum ‘Aurora’ and Miscanthus ‘Gracillimus’

Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’, Chasmanthium latifolium (Northern Sea Oats) and Panicum ‘Northwind’

Geranium ‘Brookside’, Asclepias Incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) and Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’

Astilbe ‘Deutschland’ and Nepeta (Catmint) ‘Walker’s Low’

Little of everything

Angerus sisterium and Runningus brotherium

Revengus brotherium (rare cultivar) and Runningus sisterium

Slipanslideium

Slipanslideum (Male version, less hardy)
Keep these plants active and outdoors and they agree to photos like this:
 
And they even eat lunch sitting NEXT to each other:
A great weekend on many fronts.
John