Bergamot (Monarda didyma; Labiatae)

Description

A hardy perennial often grown in the herbaceous border, which dies down to the crown each autumn. Height 1-2 ft (30-60 cm), spread 1ft (30 cm). Heads of tubular bright red flowers appear June-August. Origin, eastern America, introduced 1656. Also called Oswego Tea, or Bee Balm.

Uses

The orange-scented leaves are mainly used for making tea, and on the Continent as a sleep-inducing tisane. They are also added to other drinks, chopped up for salads and occasionally used in pot pourri.

History

Named after Nicolas Monardez, a Spanish botanist of the 16th century. Used by American colonists as a substitute for British tea during the time of the Boston Tea Party, and called Oswego tea after the American Indians from Lake Ontario who also used it for tea.

Cultivation

Monarda prefers damp soil and does well at the waterside in sunny, open or semi-shady places. Plant in autumn or spring, mulch with compost each year at these times also. Cut back in autumn to tidy. Increase by dividing in spring.

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