Wild for bergamot.

Taking advantage of a day off of work and some fabulously sunny weather, my hubby and I took a short jaunt up to Nose Hill Park yesterday. (As an aside, did you know that Calgary has the “most sunny days year-’round” of any place in Canada? Of course, there is also snow on the ground during most of those sunny days…we’re not exactly a beach community here. Still, if you’re looking for the clincher reason to live in Calgary, the sun has got to be it!). We didn’t see the deer and coyotes that frequent the Hill (although tracks were everywhere!), but we still found a ton of interesting things to look at and photograph.

One of my subjects was a dried clump of wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). They grow everywhere on the Hill, and I especially enjoy watching the bees go absolutely mad for them in the summertime. A quick check in Linda Kershaw‘s guide to Alberta Wayside Wildflowers (2003, Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton) gives a bit of insight into the plant’s historical uses:

European settlers and Native peoples gathered this aromatic plant for flavouring salads, cooked vegetables and stews and for making a pleasant minty tea. Dried, powdered leaves were sprinkled on food to keep flies and other insects away and were rubbed onto hair, skin, clothing and even favourite horses as perfume.

Have you ever used bergamot (bee balm) leaves in cooking or for tea? And do you grow cultivated varieties of Monarda in your garden? They’re definitely on my list of plants to try in my own garden this year!







  1. I love Bergamot! I haven’t used it lately, at least in a few years. Some was growing at a house I lived in and I loved watching the bees on it, too. I would just smell it and love it so much. I have Bergamot essential oil that I used to add to almond oil for my hair, but haven’t done that in awhile either. Now I’m getting the craving for it, perhaps I’ll use some tonight!

    • Oh, that’s a wonderful idea to use the essential oil to scent your hair! Bergamot is one of my very favourite fragances as well. And I’m crazy for Earl Grey tea…. 🙂

    • I believe the wildflower has a fairly wide distribution here in western Canada, but I’d have to look that up for sure. It is quite common here, you see it all over the prairies and the foothills. I’m curious, which varieties do you grow in your garden? I’m thinking of trying ‘Marshall’s Delight’ – are there any others you would recommend?

  2. I love the scent too, but the plants I have in my garden hate their position in a dry hot rockery, so they are slowly disappearing! They were lovely for a couple of years though – I had several colours ranging from white/lavender to bright crimson.

    • Oh, it would be lovely to have such a range of colours! It’s too bad that they’re disappearing on you. 😦 If I can get ahold of some plants in the spring, I will have to be careful where I locate them.

  3. Sheryl I grow bergamot in my meadow and monarda in my garden…it is a native plant here and I adore it…I know I will be profiling it this year as one of my fav wildflowers…how wonderful to see it in the wild

    • I love it too, it is definitely one of my favourites! I’m excited to hear that you’re planning to profile it – I look forward to your post! 🙂

  4. I used to grow Monarda, but I had such a problem with it getting powdery mildew that I gave up on it. Summers can be quite hot and humid in Kansas. The flowers are beautiful, though.

    • They’re definitely prone to powdery mildew – we used to occasionally have issues with the plants we sold at the garden centre where I worked. Apparently there are some mildew-resistant varieties available now; I’m going to see if I can find a couple of those in the spring.

  5. I love monarda. I rub the leaves on my when I am at my mom’s working in the garden. It smells great, and helps to keep the bugs at bay. We have a wild variety growing, but I have struggled to get the red variety going here. I keep trying, but am happy to have the wild lavender colored one.

    • I’m pleased to hear that it does indeed work as an insect repellent – I will have to try it for myself if I am able to grow some this year. They really are versatile plants, aren’t they? Wonderful!

  6. Well, that was very informative. I have enjoyed looking at the plant, and appreciating its aroma, in every season for decades and never knew what it was. Thank you for sharing and enlightening me. Wishing you all the best for 2013 and I am looking forward to your posts.

    • I’m so glad my post was helpful! They’re such beautiful plants – it’s wonderful that they’re fairly common here. Happy New Year to you!

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