Red Bee Balm 

Mondarda Didyma

also called oswego tea/bergamot 

IMG_1410-Red-Bee-Balm

One of my favorite plants in our garden is Red Bee Balm. One day I was driving home from biking on the Mississippi River and noticed the most amazing red flower in front of a house. I was not able to look at it too much since I was driving my car, and did not want to end up in the flower bed!.

Their blooms are exotic looking. I just had to find out what this flower was and grow it in Palm Rae Potager.I found out it was a herb known as  “Red Bee Balm” and just had to have some for my garden.  I started out with a small clump I picked up at the local nursery.

They stretch to the sky and remind me of a red feathered boa…they are unique. They are part of the mint family so they will spread in the garden. The Native American Indians that lived near the Oswego River called this plant “Oswego Tea”, and it is one of the few plants with a Native American name.  I did try it in tea one day and found it to be flavorful, but I had an allergic reaction to the tea. I have found that I have to be careful with herbal teas due to my allergies. It seems to be mostly plants in the Asteraceae plant family.  I have not had problems with eating Lettuce ( Lactuca Sativa ) since it is an annual plant of the Asteracea family. Thank goodness because I love fresh salad greens from our Urban Potager!

Red Bee Balm contrasts nicely with a variety of flowers which means it looks good  any place you put it in a garden. I have noticed over the years that I “love” the colors red, orange,  purple,  or blue  in my flower, herb and vegetable gardens.  A friend told me that my attraction to these colors in my yard is my body trying to heal itself. These colors  are pigments that contain a “healing” group of plant polyphenols called anthocyanins. 

Here, is an article  written that provides more detailed information on the benefits of
anthocyanins in your diet.

http://voices.yahoo.com/healing-powers-anthocyanins-3731966.html?cat=5

Red Bee Balm in a summer vase lifts your spirits….

I like them combined here with herb Golden Marguerite (dyer’s chamomile) ‘Kelways.’

The humming birds  are attracted to this herb. I also found when it is done blooming leave it in the garden. I have found ” beneficial insects” are still roaming around its raggedy blooms. Once it is no longer viable ( to beneficial insects)  I usually cut it to the ground and sometimes it will bloom again.

This year I used red bee balm in my tomato companion bed. It is with borage, old-fashioned vining petunias, reseeded shiso britton, borage, gem marigolds, french marigolds, basil, calendula, cosmos , and zinnias. Yes, I stuffed a lot into this companion bed!

Red Bee Balm one of the most beautiful colors in a late June garden in zone 5

I love red, white and gold mixed together in the garden. Timing is so important when planting perennial beds.I don’t always get it right, but eventually after many trial and error things do work out over time.

 I have always described them as “dancing bee balm”…they  move through the garden. Just have to control where they move!

even when they are not the focal point…

they just add drama to a simple urban potager garden..

They are perfect companions with tomatoes. Some people claim they…

…enhance the flavor of your tomatoes. I have a nice clump near my tomato garden, so we will find out this year if this is a myth….

Written by Robbie

M.S. Education, , Organic Gardener, soil + nature lover, former modern dancer

14 comments

  1. I’ve planted bee balm before, but it didn’t do well here. It’s such a lovely plant that I would like to try it again…and I do enjoy the flavor of bergamot. Beautiful pictures!

    1. I know the tea was excellent! I just did not feel well after I drank it. I was so disappointed because it tasted so good. I can see why it was used to replace tea after the Boston Tea Party by settlers. I look forward to your pictures of Bee Balm in the future, I have no doubt they will be good:-) robbie

      1. I didn’t know that bergamot was used to replace regular tea after the Boston Tea Party! I love history, especially garden history, so thanks for sharing that interesting fact. And if the Bee Balm grows for me this time…oh yes, there will be pictures. 🙂

      2. When I took the tour of your garden, I noticed your beautiful bee balm. I thought the tea was so good, but just what “us people” with allergies have to deal with all the time. Thank goodness I am not allergic to “chocolate mint” tea–that is my favorite! I thought I caught a hummingbird moth one day out of the corner of my eye. I just need to sit STILL one day, and observe, but this summer is too busy. It will slow down soon-:-)robbie

  2. So interesting! I enjoyed the article, too. I love bee balm and have two large drifts of it. The hummingbirds love it, too, and in it I spied my first hummingbird moth in this garden. I have never tried the tea. I have allergies but think they are mold related so try to avoid moldy foods like blue cheese – bummer.

    1. When I took the tour of your garden, I noticed your beautiful bee balm. I thought the tea was so good, but just what “us people” with allergies have to deal with all the time. Thank goodness I am not allergic to “chocolate mint” tea–that is my favorite! I thought I caught a hummingbird moth one day out of the corner of my eye. I just need to sit STILL one day, and observe, but this summer is too busy. It will slow down soon-:-)robbie

  3. I love, love, love red bee balm! And now that I think of it, it’s one plant I don’t have in my gardens. I’ll have to remedy that next year.

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