Monday, May 23, 2016

WE MET IN A PARKING LOT

It was a cold December day when I met Daphne Richards, our Travis County Extension Agent for Horticulture, in the parking lot of a local store. We transferred a couple of chunks of a dormant plant into the trunk of my car. Monarda, Peter's Purple, was the new sensation and Daphne had plenty to share among the Austin gardeners. Monarda, more commonly known as bee balm, suffers greatly from our hot, humid summers but this one, a cross between two southern varieties, was supposed to stand up to such conditions without developing mildew. It is much showier than our native bee balms Monarda punctata and Monarda citriodora, whose blooms vary from white to pale purple and bloom about the same time.


I and my fellow gardeners began sharing until we could share no more. I even sent some up to a gardener in Dallas. Then I took a clump and put it above the sunken garden between the sunken garden and the pool. Because this plant spreads by underground runners the second year it grew into the yellow iris. What I great idea, I thought, the two can bloom together or if the iris is slightly ahead the monarda will take over. Indeed. The monarda has taken over to the point where this year I will be pulling it all out and finding a new home for it. My yellow iris didn't care for its companion.


It is such a pity because a photograph of the plant in my garden, very similar to the one above, was chosen by Nancy Ondra to be featured in her recent book, The Perennial Matchmaker.  Monarda, Peter's Purple, purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, and Rudbeckia hirta do make for a very pleasing combination.
And there is no surprise as to how the bee balm acquired its name because all manner of bees are attracted to the flowers.


And what great long lasting cut flowers they make. So when I began pulling some of the clump out last week I brought a huge bunch of flowers into the house. They are still going strong.


Never fear. I have this plant growing in two other places in the garden and I will likely find a new home for some of the one I take out. But if you live in Austin and would like to meet me in a parking lot this winter. Let me know and I will put you on the list.

18 comments:

  1. Ha! Great story. I would love to be on your parking lot list, although I'm afraid it's too long of a trip. But, don't think you are the only one meeting up in parking lots. I was once given a double white lilac in the parking lot of an IKEA store years ago.

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    1. I suspect there are many more of us out there. I once met a girl from Dallas who had a bunch of Gardeners' World magazines. Garden magazines never go out of date.

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  2. I definitely would like some and have the perfect spot for it.

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    1. You are on my list Rita. Will need a contact number when the time comes. Please send me an email.

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  3. Your monarda is so pretty.
    I'm yanking out my Rudbeckia Goldsturm by the handfuls---I love it, but wow-it spreads like crazy. I think it wants to take over the world!!

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    1. I wish mine was seeding like crazy. I only have a few this year and one is right in the path.

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  4. It's a gorgeous plant. I'm wondering if it would be as vigorous here? I've failed with other Monarda but I've read this one can handle zone 10. I've received and accepted an offer of seeds - hopefully, I won't regret its introduction to my garden.

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    1. I don't think you have anything to lose unless. Mine is poorly treated and still grows.

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  5. Oh! I wonder how this would do in the desert. Too bad I won't be in Austin until October...

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    1. Maybe we can get together while you are here and I can share. Nothing to lose.

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  6. You meet some of the nicest people (and get some of the best plants!) in parking lots.... Count me in this winter!

    I only have the native annual form of monarda here and depending on when and how much it rains, some years there are only a few popping up along the edges of beds which unfortunately sometimes means the seed hits the street, rather than welcoming soil. A perennial version would be a welcome addition!

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    1. You are on my list Deb.I saw a lovey stand of the native ones today-the darker purple. Maybe I need to buy some seed or maybe I should put some of this one out there. Never thought of that.

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  7. Looks like a really nice Monarda cultivar. I tried a red-flowered one once and was not impressed, but perhaps I should try again someday...

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  8. That is too bad, though I know how rampant bee balm can be. That one has such a pretty color! I have some bee balm in several spots in my garden - given to me by another gardener, of course! I'm keeping an eye on it, as it's getting bigger.. and bigger.. and bigger...

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  9. I got a small start one year, from Bob Byer. And, it's trying to take over.
    Will be digging some out this fall.
    I still like it, but sometimes, we have to be careful what we wish for...

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  10. I planted some last year. I will probably be removing some next year. Maybe I will move it to my rain garden where it is more confined. So far, I think it is too pretty to remove all together. That opinion may change in a couple of years. I decided this is the year to try removing my hear leaf skullcap. I used to like it too.

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  11. Glad to see my passalong Monarda is doing well in your garden, Jenny! And will live on in another area of your landscape. I really like the thought of having a small hand in your beautiful garden! Big hug.

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