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 Portland...at 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 time...it'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 magnet...as 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.