A Monarda Plant that Doesn’t Wander

Dear Problem Lady


My gorgeous scarlet Monarda Didyma refuses to stay put. It wanders around in the garden. Is there any Monarda that stays in one place and forms more of a clump?

Like a bee or a hummingbird, it is easy to adore the fire-engine-red Monarda, by far the most popular one. However, it spreads fast by its expansive roots and refuses to be part of a neat border year after year. Monarda, known also as “Bee Balm” or  “Bergamot” because of the delicious smell of its leaves, does now come in pale pink, dark wine burgundy, and other colors. My own favorite is the blue one called “Bluestocking”, which forms more in a mound. (PICTURED)

How should I water a mature tree?  We have a dogwood, and then there is a massive Red Oak in the tree box out front.

For the dogwood, turn your sprinkler or hose nozzle to its lowest trickle and leave it on underneath the tree for hours, moving it occasionally. Do this once every 10 days or so. The Oak has managed to survive through many a drought. It needs little from you except attention to removing any dead branches.  The city is responsible for the care of street trees.

I love watering my garden. I inspect everything as I water, to watch the miracle of growth unfold. It has suddenly occurred to me – am I doing this right? 

Maybe. You can kill plants by not watering them, and also some die if their roots get too wet. First, try to water early in the day, so that by evening leaves have had time to dry. This deters pests and mold from favorite incubation spots under damp leaves. Soaker hoses that get water directly into the soil are preferable to spraying water from above. In other words, aim to water the soil, not the leaves. Third, work to improve your soil, adding compost, to make it able to retain moisture so you don’t have to water more than once every 4 days or so. And last, add a thin layer of mulch. It deters surface evaporation, allowing water to get deeper and stay longer.

Could you make an ALL SEASONS plants list for color in a shade garden?

Try a small Witch-hazel tree in one corner. Then choose low plants with beautiful leaves — Ferns (painted Japonica and lacy Maidenhair) Pulmonaria (spotted) and Coral Bells (green, chocolate or chartreuse). After its spectacular February bloom, the leaves of Lenten Rose (Helleborus) last all year. Slip in Pansies among the greens; and later, from May to August, substitute Bergenia or Begonias, for a flash of red. In the autumn, perhaps Astilbe.

The Capitol Hill Garden Club welcomes website visitors at capitolhillgardenclub.org until meetings resume in September.