Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Year in the Life - Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'

If someone were to stop me on the street and ask what variety of Monarda I would choose as a favorite, I'd have to say this one, 'Raspberry Wine'. While it has many of the problems that plague other Monardas, it is so vigorous, floriferous and beautiful, it would be an easy pick for me. Beware, however, if you want a small, demure Monarda, look elsewhere, because 'Raspberry Wine' is the Godzilla of Monardas! From what I gather, it's average size is 4' x 4', but, as mine is proving this spring, will spread quite a bit more if happy. I believe they are hardy to about Zone 4, which means almost anyone can grow them.

Pictured above is the foliage emerging in late winter, early spring. The photo was taken yesterday, in fact. 'Raspberry Wine', at least in my Zone 8 garden, never completely dies back. A small amount of basal foliage, like the one above, remains all winter and with warmer, sunnier weather, starts to slowly grow larger and larger.

Above you can see the rapid rate at which it grows once the weather warms. I could almost hear the stems stretching daily. It was only when I looked at the series of photos that I realized just how fast some plants can grow! This was my first year growing it and I didn't realize how tall it could get, I'd say mine was about 5' tall...then again, it's not quite in full sun. This year, I plan on doing the "Chelsea Chop" to the front portion of the clump once it gets to the 2' mark, which will hopefully keep it's stems from getting so tall that they simply can't bear their own weight. I love tall plants, but only if they can manage to stay upright.

Here is one of the forming buds in June. 'Raspberry Wine' starts blooming in late June, but really gets going in the first part of July here in least in my garden. Unfortunately for me, right about the time these were starting to bloom, we had our first heat wave here in PDX, on 4th of July weekend. It seems that whever we get blasted by heat in our neighborhood, we also get really high, gusty winds. I came home from work one day to find half the stems of 'Raspberry Wine' had fallen over, due to the high winds. I was not pleased.

Here are the flowers in the early stages of bloom, you can see the flowers are a very, VERY bright pinkish-red. I believe one catalog describes it as "wine-red without a trace of muddiness", seems pretty on-the-mark. I honestly can't say I would have chose this plant if I had seen it in bloom at the's just such a strong color. In a mixed border, however, especially with enough cooler-colored companions, it's brassiness is mellowed a bit, yet still retains its electric nature.

While not named Bee Balm because of its attractiveness to bees (it's called Bee Balm because it was originally used as a treatment for bee stings), bees still enjoy it's blossoms. Honestly, they never seemed quite as crazy for any of my Monardas like they were for the Agastaches. Get close enough and you can smell the strong, musky scent so typical of Monarda. Although part of the mint family, I find the scent of Monarda a bit more pungent and spicy than typical mints. It's rather pleasant, but I can see that some people may find it a bit much.

Here you can see how 'Raspberry Wine' fits into the border, remember, this is actually only HALF as big as it would have been if it hadn't lost those stems earlier in the summer. Also, this is only its first year in my garden (was planted the previous fall as a tiny little start I purchased from Joy Creek Nursery). Make no mistake, this is a very vigorous plant...and you know I have a soft spot for bold, vigorous plants! Not only does it bloom heavily, but it blooms for a very long period, From July into October.

Here is the Monarda this fall, just before I cut it down. Now, I hardly ever cut plants back until late winter, just before they resume growth. 'Raspberry Wine', however, like all my Monardas, gets Powdery Mildew. I seem to be a PM every Monarda I've ever grown has gotten it, so I just learn to roll with the fungal punches, as it were. I do spray the plants regularly if PM shows up, with some organic anti-fungal stuff. It is sad to cut the plants down, however, as the seed heads are kind of cool looking.

There you have it...if you want a beautiful, robust plant that flowers its dear little heart out...go for Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'! Just make sure you keep your eye on it, as it seems bent on world domination.


  1. If only for that pesky Powdery Mildew....I do love how the hummingbirds love the Monarda. I might try Jacob Cline in my new garden...supposed to be more PM resistant. Raspberry Wine is a great color, with or without the mildew.

  2. It is an aggressive plant. Mine never dies all the way either. Mine is also much more red. So, you are going to cut the whole plant back? Last year I pinched the tips and had twice as many blooms.....they did flop though....hmmmm maybe I'll do the chop too....thinking here.

  3. I do want this beautiful, robust plant! But alas, it doesn't want my garden conditions. I'm thinking of trying Cirsium rivulare for a similar effect. Nice to see a scene from high summer!

  4. Another beauty Scott. I have a monarda in my herb bed at the allotment but can't remember which one it is. 'Raspberry Wine' looks a most attractive colour - I am off to find out more :)

  5. I am a Monarda failure. Mine has never made it past a single summer. I keep hearing how invasive they can be...nope, not here. I've never tried "Raspberry Wine" though, mine was redder but I can't remember the name. Your image of the forming buds is a knockout!

  6. Scott, Great post. Now this should be your reminder to get some kind of staking procedure underway right now while the plant is still short.

    My 'Raspberry Wine' gets taller than I am and I am 5 feet. It doesn't flop at all but it isn't subject to strong winds either. I guess I'm lucky. Every garden should have this plant!! Hummers also love it.

  7. Hey your mixed bed looks awesome. Is that Joe Pye in the background with Miscanthus? Never tried Monarda but thinking of trying M. Claire grace.

  8. Ah ... I'd love to try it but Monardas sulk in my wet clay. What's the orange plant behind the Monarda?

  9. My Monarda retains green basal growth even in Minneapolis...they're crazy hardy. The Minneapolis parks has a beautiful trial garden with enormous clumps of monarda that are spectacular in bloom.

  10. Another plant I can't wait to see! I think it might have been you who correctly id'd my mislabeled Monarda. It was supposed to be 'Blue Stockings', but I think I lucked out and got 'Raspberry Wine' instead. I never knew how it got it's name, I thought it was named because bees liked it. In my garden the hummingbirds really go for the Monarda.

  11. Okay Scott, you've convinced me to try monarda again. For some reason, I have trouble growing it. After three attempts, your dreamy shots have convinced me to try again, until I get it right.

  12. I have several colors of Monarda, but like you I like the Raspberry colored ones best. i must say I have never had problems with them falling over. Perhaps my garden is more sheltered.

  13. Raspberry Wine does well in my z5/6 garden too tho' it does not get as large as yours. Mildew is a given, especially since I grow this one next to the wild bergamot species. Impossible to resist the colour.

  14. I so meant to get here sooner after seeing you reply to a friends blog a while back. My loss as you have a wonderful blog.

    I really like it when bloggers have a write up on one plant and tell their experiences with it. I just trust that more than what I read in the plant rags. Then readers can add more info [as in the grass post below] so that I can make much more educated decisions on what might work in my own gardens. I'll be back.

    P.S. Another blog you might want to check out, my all time favorite and a friend as well,

  15. Dear Scott, I can see why this is your favorite monarda. Beautiful photos. P.

  16. Janet: Yes, it seems if we want Monarda, we just have to make the best of it! I do have Jacob Cline...and it actually didn't get PM last year...but it was really spindly for me, for some reason.

    Darla: I do think so...but I'll probably let the center stems grow naturally and just pinch back the outer stems...we'll see if it works!

    Denise: OOO...i'd love to see the Cirsium...go for it!

    Anna: Hahaha.I hope you find it...really, they are all pretty wonderful, especially the newer varieties...Piet Oudolf bred several new varieties that are supposed much more mildew resistant...I also had 'Aquarius' last year, which was a knockout if you like pink.

    Danger: I hear you, I could never get it to do ANYTHING in my previous garden...I think my garden here suits it's crazy, heavy clay...but holds moisture like no other ;-)

    Grace: You are so right...I realized last summer that I just need to accept that some plants are prone to I might as well stake them before they go crazy (hello, Helenium, I'm talking to you!).

    greggo: Thanks! are right on both counts, Joe Pye and Miscanthus 'Malepartus'. I'd love to see that Monarda in your garden!

    James: They can be a little tempermental...and you do have pretty wet soil, from teh look of it! If it's the orange slightly below the Monarda, it's Crocosmia 'Orangeade" (I did a post about it recently). If it's the one above and to the right, it's Helenium 'Mardi Gras'.

    Tom: That pic of the park is beautiful...those are the pictures that make people run out to find Monarda!

    Catherine: Glad I could help! The hummers do love the Monarda...especially these reddish ones...and the blooms are huge, they must be an easier target :-)

    Tom: Try it...I'll send good thoughts your way! The trick really does seem to be keeping the soil moist at all times...once they dry out they seem to be really susceptible to PM.

    Jennifer: I know...I never would have thought I would like this color...but it's just right for my garden...bright without being garish!

    Patty: So good to know you are able to grow it too...that's a good range! I've sort of come to expect PM to happen too, you just have to deal with it the best you can :-)

    Bob: Glad to have you drop by! I check out that other blog too...pretty cool! And yeah, I'll always trust a fellow gardener's opinion over any review.

    Pam: Thanks so much!

  17. OMG! I used to live only a few blocks from you! I recognize the house next to yours. I won't give away the address, but you're in Brooklyn, right?

    My husband and I both had houses that were 1 block in from Holgate (yes, we met because we were neighbors). I had a cute green corner house, and my husband had the ale colored house two doors down.

    We've since moved to more property out in the country.