Tag Archives: powdery mildew


Humblebrag alert – I was fortunate to have my garden featured on the Fine Gardening “Garden Photo of the Day” blog today. You can see it here. The comments from the readers are above and beyond and I truly appreciate the feedback knowing how much effort I’ve put into my garden. The years of blood and sweat and stitches and ticks and sketches and research and frustration and false elation is all worth it.

But I feel uncomfortable with the praise at the same time.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been all in on Instagram of late and enjoy how easy it is to share photos and interact with other hardcore plant freaks, not to mention the creativity involved with the pics themselves. I enjoy tinkering with various filters and the macro capabilities through my phone are even better than what I can do with my “real” camera. I’ve received great advice and wonderful feedback on Instagram and again, it is affirmation that I must be doing something right.

But now I suffer from Insta-Guilt.

If others only knew how rough a good portion of my garden looks, they may second guess their praise. It’s so easy to take bits and pieces of the garden and mash them together to make it look like it is magazine worthy. Is it our/my responsibility to paint a more realistic picture of what goes into creating and maintaining a garden? In doing so, does that put other gardeners, especially newbies, at ease and allow them to push on without the thought that they may have a black thumb? This is a question I’ve been chewing on for years and I’m still not sure what the right answer is.

On the flip side, do people simply want to escape when they are scrolling through Instagram photos? Do most enjoy thumbing through 50 photos in 30 seconds with the occasional click of the heart as a “like”? Is it not the right place to expose reality and the ugly underbelly of gardening life?

Like everything in life, does the answer fall somewhere in between the two extremes? Relish in the beauty that is nature and that is plants but keep it all in check by throwing in a dash of “what can go wrong” or “here is what powdery mildew looks like”.

Here’s a real life example.

You cannot deny the beauty of the blooms on this Dwarf Sneezeweed.

sneezeweed mariachi

“Wow“, John Q Reader says, “I need to get me some of these.” And he does just that and sticks them in the ground and waits for those perfect blooms and the perfect looking plant.

Except he wakes up one day and sees this.


He then curses himself, labels himself as a non-green-thumb and potentially gives up on gardening. A bit extreme? I guess so, but where does the responsibility lie with telling him that this is super common with Sneezeweed? The seller? That will never happen if they hope to stay in business so does it then shift to those of us who write about plants? Me thinks so. Maybe it is “yes these blooms are beautiful but you better make sure you hide their potentially ugly legs by planting something smaller in front of it.”

Example number 2.

Bee balm blooms are exceptional and plenty in summer and do they ever draw in the bees and butterflies.


But buyer beware, the foliage will more than likely suffer from powdery mildew and things can get ugly real fast.


I’ve done a decent job of exposing my garden warts from the inception of this blog back in 2010, but it was always done in more of a comical tone with self-deprivation. I don’t know that I’ve been direct enough in doling out “what can go wrong”.

When the narrative of a blog post takes me there going forward, I really want to focus on highlighting the flaws of a plant or where mistakes can easily be made. This includes really exposing my garden and what it really looks like. A step back from the close-up shots is necessary. It may hurt to be so honest but I think it will pay dividends in the long run.

QOTD – do you agree with my assessment of a more realistic view of our gardens is needed?


Powdery Mildew on Monarda (Bee Balm)

AUG 2017 UPDATE: After reading this post, read here to see the latest on my beloved Monarda.

I guess it was inevitable.

With all the rain we’ve had the past few weeks and the high humidity to go with it, I knew there was a good chance that the powdery mildew would rear its ugly head. And today it did, on a bunch of my Monarda (Bee Balm) plants:


These perennials are susceptible to this fungus so it wasn’t much of a shock. This particular cultivar – ‘Colrain Red’ – is supposed to be mildew resistant and I haven’t had an issue with it since I first purchased these two years ago. But they have all nearly doubled/tripled in size since I first planted them:


So I think now that the Bee Balm have less air circulation due to their ever expanding clumps, I’ll need to thin out the stems earlier in the spring to help fend off the powdery white stuff. Spraying any type of chemicals on these plants is never an option; I don’t do chemicals and I’m too busy moving plants around to even try any of the more natural methods.

I’ve learned over the years that the powdery mildew fungi typically overwinters in plant debris and the spores are then transferred to the plants through some combination of wind, water that splashes up on the plants or even through visiting critters. As referenced earlier, there are specific conditions in the garden that make mildew a distinct possibility:

1. Wet conditions due to heavy rains or excessive overhead watering on the plants leaves
2. Humidity
3. Lack of air circulation due to plant overcrowding
4. Plants that are known to be susceptible to powdery mildew (bee balm, phlox, lilacs, etc.)

Knowing there is really no means to treat the mildew, I figured my best bet was to simply cut down all of the stems of the Monarda and dispose of them, hoping to remove all of the affected parts of the plant:

I also made sure all of the leaves that had already fallen from the plants were scooped up and disposed of as well:

I’m not worried that this fungus will have any long term affect on the health of these perennials and plan on enjoying them for years to come:



There aren’t too many plants that are ignored by the deer, are cool with wet feet, smell damn good (others may disagree), bloom for long periods of time and can fill in an empty space in no time. A little whiteness on their leaves from time to time still seems worth it.

But only time will tell.