12 May 2012

Herb of the year is Monarda, Oswego Tea, Horse Mint, Wild Oregano, Bergamot, Bee Balm

West Coast Seeds
The Herb Society of America's Notable Native Herb of 2013 is a plant of many names including its Latin name Monarda fistulosa, Oswego Tea, Bergamot, Wild Oregano, Horse Mint and Bee Balm.

The plant I started from a pack of seeds a dozen years ago is still going strong. The reason I planted it originally is because the seed pack said Bergamot. I love Earl Grey tea which is flavored with Bergamot so I knew I would enjoy the scent of the leaves in the garden.

Of course, the pollinator feeding aspect of Bee Balm is a double bonus. The flowers are covered with bees and butterflies in the summer.

This is one herb that is native to practically the entire continental U.S. It has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Now, in the kitchen, it is used as an oregano substitute.

But, did you know that the roots are also beneficial? The Grower's Exchange said, "A very helpful companion plant, the Thymol contained in the plant's roots keep subterranean pests at bay, while the tubular purple flowers at the top of the plant attract many useful pollinators and predatory insects."

Monarda is a cold hardy perennial in zones 4-10. Give it a try in your garden, but know that if it likes where you plant it, a clump of Monarda can grow 3-feet wide and 4-feet tall. At least it did in our garden.

Plants are available from the Grower's Exchange and seeds are available from Easy Wildflowers, Prairie Moon, and West Coast Seeds.

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