It’s well known that the scale of benefit versus input is quite high for Monarda. The stunning high summer fireworks shaped flowers come in many colours from white to many hues of reds, pinks, violets and purples. They look great en masse in a variety of different gardening styles from cottage gardens through to prairie planting. The down side is the temperamental nature when overwintered in ground that’s too damp, whilst in the summer requiring some degree of moisture. As a result they can easily suffer dieback and not make it through to the next season. For this reason, whilst I grow many Monarda cultivars, particularly in the developing prairie garden, for reasons of sustainability my actual National Collection is held in containers. The containers facilitate both winter drainage and summer watering from an automatic sprinkler system. Secondary benefits also include the ability to easily compare cultivars and ensure the collection cultivars are all correctly named. In addition, the powdery mildew problem associated with many cultivars can be helped by extra levels of care when more accessible, than when grown within large planting schemes. For example mulching and feeding as well as the already mentioned summer watering.
During this summer I realised that by the autumn I would have to reassess the provision for the collection plants as they were all becoming pot bound. Ideally I would have liked to be able to use raised beds for the Collection, which would be the perfect solution. With this not being feasible, the next best solution was large planters, using one per accession. While National Collections have to include at least 3 plants per taxa, these would all be grown together in this instance. Having sourced 100 x 65 litre planters and by using all of my own 2016 compost and top dressing with bought compost, the cost including compost would be approximately £1000, with the planters representing around £750.
I approached the Devon branch of Plant Heritage to ask if it might be possible to apply for a grant to help with the cost, for which they very kindly agreed a grant of £500. I am extremely grateful for the grant and wish to thank the group enormously for helping me to manage my collection.