Gardens in Japan: Wild bergamot or horsemint
Wild bergamot or horsemint, or more commonly known as monardas here.
Spotted some pink monardas in the neighborhood, they are a little straggly after the rain but which were magnificent a few days ago. The usual variety seen are the red kind (photographed below).
Monardas, the perennial often seen in English gardens are still rare in Japan, this is the first time I spotted them in our neighbourhood.
Facts about monardas may be found here and here. The flower above I think is either the M. ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ or the Scarlet Bee Balm which are both a good bright red.
Monardas give good height, growing from 90cm to 1.5m (3ft to 5ft) high. The flower scent is similar to that of the bergamot orange, which is used to flavour Earl Grey tea (hence its common name). As well as the old varieties, such as M. ‘Cambridge Scarlet’, dark purple ‘Prärienacht’ and white ‘Schneewittchen’, there are numerous new varieties which have been mostly bred by the Dutch garden designer and plant breeder Piet Oudolf, in Holland. Many are named after native American tribes and signs of the zodiac, and are increasingly available from garden centres.
Site and soil preferences
Monardas like sun or very light shade and thrive on most soils, except very dry or clay. Keep them well watered over summer.
It’s best to plant monardas behind smaller plants that will hide the lower part of their stems.
Monardas look good when grouped together and beside midsummer-flowering perennials such as bright pink Lythrum salicaria, red-pink Persicaria amplexicaulis or mauve-blue Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch’. The occasional injection of silvery foliage, such as artemisia, also works well.
Monardas spread relatively easily, gradually moving from the original planting site. After a number of years they may need digging up and replanting.
Monardas can easily be divided in the spring as they start growing. This rejuvinates tired old clumps and provides plenty of new, vigorous plants. Alternatively, take cuttings when growth is fresh and vigorous.
Mildew on the leaves can be a problem, especially when the plants are stressed by dry weather. Treat with fungicides and remove diseased foliage to contain the spread. Monardas can be attacked by vine weevils, but this is only likely to be a problem on light soils.