In 2008, I took a wetland construction class in the Finger Lakes of New York. The region wasn't what I expected, in both good and bad ways, but what it lacked in culture and real mountains it made up for in vast forests, rivers full of smallmouth bass, and native flowers I'd never seen. We were on the site of a restored prehistoric wetland when I discovered a really curious lavender bee balm. I asked, "What is that?" Someone replied, "Wild Bergamot." Here's the photo I took of it.
|Funny - I never even uploaded it to Flickr - this is its first public viewing|
The problem is that in the southeast and mid-atlantic states, Wild Bergamot is not native to the coastal plain (or even the eastern portion of the piedmont). The plant seeds prolifically, can grow by runners, and yet, can't survive (I'm guessing) the summer humidity.
(map removed, thanks, virus)
In 2009, I bought live Bergamot plants from three different sources. One died of stem rot, one died from stress as a result of powdery mildew, and the other one was destroyed by marauding ants (a problem I occasionally encounter with bee balm, for some reason). In 2010, I bought a live plant from a high end nursery in Maryland. It turned out to be.......bee balm. Their response, "Oh, it has lots of names! (proceeds to list every plant in the Monarda genus)." In 2011, I tried to grow it from seed. It failed.
In 2011, I ordered some seed through Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, which sourced the seed from Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. It survived but did not bloom. I had very low hopes. But somehow in 2013, it returned. And grew. And grew. And bloomed. See it near the center of this image? It requires a tomato cage to support its weight.
And the bees are on it. I've succeeded. Every time I see the plant, I think of that amazing restored wetland and meadow in the New York Finger Lakes. Of a tough and strenuous week, before Amy was even pregnant with Hank. Before I knew what stress and love really were. It's a good plant. Everybody said it wouldn't grow. It's too hot. Too humid. The mildew will kill it. And yes, after watching it grow all spring, I can see all of those stresses on these plants. But they live.