Beginning today, blogger Canadian Garden Joy will host a regular meme in which fellow bloggers may highlight a specific plant in their gardens: “to find out information from other gardeners with how they feel about certain plants, methods, garden art. Well what ever is garden related that really gave them the “Ah Ha!” moment impression. It can be old or new and certainly good or bad … bad being pretty darn juicy to hear about for the rest of us as it is a heads up that we can probably use ourselves.” I am beginning with Bee Balm, Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline.’
‘Jacob Cline’ is a tall, vigorous cultivar of Monarda, featuring scarlet-red flowers. It generally grows four to five feet tall in my garden. If pinched back early in the summer, it branches out well and stays a bit shorter. Cutting the plant back to a set of double leaves once its flower has died results in more, smaller blooms within a few weeks.
In my Zone 5b garden in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ begins blooming in early July, and, with dead-heading, continues to put out blooms until frost. It seems tolerant of almost any soil condition, and has average water needs. While powdery mildew can be a problem for some Bee Balm cultivars, I rarely see it on my ‘Jacob Cline’. Deer, rabbits, and woodchucks don’t touch it. People, however, may enjoy tea made from its pungent mint-scented leaves.
Even given these assets, ‘Jacob Cline’ is not my favorite plant. I am not a fan of red in my garden, much preferring a palette of pink, purple, and yellow. To my eye, it looks weedy, and its blooms awkward. It also spreads like chicken pox!
However, the hummingbirds love it and the woodchucks hate it, so it therefore gets to stay!
After trying this plant in at least three other places around my yard, I have finally found a spot for it where both I and it are happy. ‘Jacob Cline’ now lives under my kitchen window, against the west-facing wall of the house, where it receives the brunt of the afternoon sun. Here, at the back of the house, out of public view, ‘Jacob Cline’ has the freedom and room to ramble as it will, without infringing upon other, more well-loved, flowers. What you see here is the result of a mere three small shoots transplanted at the end of last summer!It is a very nice thing to see the hummingbirds visit nearly every time I am at the kitchen sink doing dishes! I dearly wish to get a picture of one taking nectar from a red bloom, but the camera never seems handy at the right time, and my hands are wet, and there’s a window screen in the way, so capturing that moment is proving a challenge!
To sum up, Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ is a fine plant for someone who likes red, needs a tall, back-of-the-border sort of plant, has plenty of room and patience for its roaming tendencies, and wants to attract hummingbirds to the garden!