I don’t remember it multiplying in height. But one day last summer, I found myself looking eye-to-eye with one of the newest additions to my flower garden, my bee balm specimen. I call it a “specimen” because no horticulture magazine, no mail-order catalog, no greenhouse would ever believe a bee balm plant would outgrow it’s advertised 36″ height description into a stand of miniature balm trees eye level with its own gardner.
This was quite a specimen. Tall and strong. I couldn’t help but applaud myself for finding what must have been a most perfectly suitable growing place in my garden in which to plant this bee balm root. And that’s exactly what it started out as just the summer before: a meager, spindly root, shipped not-so-carefully in purple gardening fabric, cardboard and bubble wrap. It was my mail-order experiment from a faraway, foreign greenhouse land.
My, oh my, how my little “Raspberry Wine” monarda had grown from such humble beginnings! From its strong, thick, early spring shoots I cut beautiful greens to complement jars filled with spring’s first purple iris. A little later, its tall green stems and spicy-scented, sworded leaves joined orange coneflowers and green-centered rudbeckias. But would anything more ever come of my stand of bee balm trees?
I was worried that the seed catalog must have hastily mislabeled this giant. Would this colossal plant be content with just its greenery, refusing to bloom due to its steroid-seemingly induced growth spurt?
Then one day, it rose above my head, a cluster of purplish-green leaves squeezed upward with a glorious spray of hot pink shooting from the top of the bunch like a fuzzy, pollen-encrusted headdress upon a garden princess. A floral firework of radical realms. It was glorious in its absolute uniqueness. I had never seen its likeness, mostly just leaves, but bright tinted leaves topped with a crown that was part flower, part pineapple, part “specimen.”
If bee balm had a facebook page, at that very moment I became a fan and announced it to the world by hitting the “like” button.