Ask the Master Gardeners: June 2013
Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
Q: I saw a red flowered perennial in a friend’s garden that had bees and butterflies around it. The friend called it bee balm. Will it grow well for me?
A: The answer is definitely yes. According to Wikipedia, monarda (bergamot, horsemint, bee balm) is a genus consisting of roughly 16 species of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae. The one you saw is monarda didyma. The species include both annual and perennial upright growing herbaceous plants. The plants are used most frequently in areas in need of naturalization, and are often used in beds and borders to increase hummingbirds, pollinating insects, and predatory/parasitic insects that hunt garden pests. Wikipedia suggests that because of oils present in the roots, monarda plants are sometimes used as a companion plant around small vegetable crops susceptible to subterranean pests and can be a good plant to grow with tomatoes, supposedly improving both health and flavor. This last statement I will be able to confirm (or deny) after this year as I have a lovely Scarlet bee balm or monarda didyma planted right in the middle of one of my vegetable beds.
Wildflower.org describes Scarlet bee balm as a popular perennial with scarlet-red flowers in terminal tufts. The three foot stems are lined with large, oval, dark-green leaves. Individual flowers are narrowly tube-shaped, tightly clustered together in two inch heads. The leaves have a minty aroma. Hummingbirds are especially attracted to the red flowers.
Every spring a wild white beebalm comes up in my backyard that I suspect is M. citriodora or lemon bee balm. I also have another variety with pale purple flowers.
Q: What can I do to make my yard more friendly for birds?
A: The simplest answer is provide food, water, shelter and places for nests. Your trees or shrubs probably already have nests in them. I keep a couple of seed feeders filled year round, even though I have plenty of bushes with edible berries: hackberry, yaupon, American beautyberry, fig, blueberries (which I keep covered with a net for me), and chili peppers. Here in Texas we do need to provide water year round. I have a number of bird baths and two larger lily ponds. Refresh the water frequently to keep out mosquitoes. In my water lily ponds I use BT floats (which don’t hurt the fish) for mosquito larvae. Doug Welsh in his Texas Garden Almanac suggests that you also provide a small area of sand, tiny gravel, or crushed eggshells. This helps birds grind and digest seeds. Remember to also plant hummingbird plants. I already have hummers flying around my columbine, larkspur, salvias, Turks Cap and flame acanthus (anisacanthus quadrifidus). Lantanas, petunias, plumbago, verbena and four o’clock are also hummingbird plants.
Q: Is there a way to learn about drip irrigation?
A: Check with your County AgriLife Extension agent. He can provide information.
Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is guadalupecountymastergardeners.org. The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, on the second floor of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension building, 210 East Live Oak in Seguin.