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Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ – Bee Balm

Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’, scarlet bee balm, rivals cardinal flower as one of the truest and deepest red flowers of summer. Difficult to photograph accurately, ‘Jacob Cline’ is the best of the bee balm clan, relatively mildew-resistant and as smoldering as the deepest, darkest red rose.

The garden industry’s persistent habit of passing off magenta flowers as red is an old and nefarious trick. Happily, there are a number of truly red-flowered plants. Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ is one of them.

Easy to grow, bee balm spreads into a large clump quickly. You only need to purchase one. Within a couple of years that one-gallon plant will be four feet wide.

Bee balm has one potential flaw as a garden plant:  Monarda is susceptible to mildew. Plants grown in full sun fare better. In my experience, Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ is extremely mildew resistant. Plant ‘Jacob Cline’ in a spot you favor and see what happens.

Most of us have full enough lives without standing around in the garden spraying for mildew. Eliminating chemicals from ornamental gardens is the smart thing to do, environmentally speaking.

Bees love Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ and so do hummingbirds.

Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ has coarse, aromatic foliage, and grows 3′-5′. Plant at the back of the garden as your first choice.

Regarding the fragrance, I have tried to convince my children for years that bee balm is truly special but they still haven’t bought in; still, if you like fragrance in the garden that is earthy and real, then crush a bee balm leaf between thumb and finger and maybe you will approve.

Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ is deer and mildew resistant.

Monarda produces essential oils that keep deer and rabbits from munching on it. A native plant that attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees yet which keeps the deer at bay is pretty special.

Some people use Monarda to flavor tea, but I haven’t gone that far. Bee balm is native over much of the eastern half of North America, and nurseries will try to tell you it blooms for three months if dead-headed. This is not my experience.

Bee balm comes in a great swath of bloom in early summer and if you choose to cut it back by half after blooming, perhaps a smaller flush will appear later. Monarda can get lanky, so a quick prune job is recommended – just casually lop it off a foot or two above ground and move on.

Eugene Cline, not Jean (I think)

This cultivar was discovered near the Blueridge Parkway by Georgia native Eugene Cline and named for his son Jacob. Often attributed to ‘Jean’ Cline, I do not believe this is true. Here is a fantastic article (page 16) about Eugene Cline from the Atlanta History Center. By the way, the document, Garden Citings, is a beautiful resource.

More information:
Winter hardiness zones: Zones 4-9

Native Distribution:

Genus/speciesMonarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’
Common name(s)bee balm, oswego tea, bergamot, ‘Jacob Cline’ or ‘Jacob Kline’ >>> Cline is correct
Of notemildew resistant – hummingbirds love Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ – easy to grow – true, deep, dark red
Fall colorinsignificant
Water requirementsaverage, moist soil conditions
Soil qualityrich, well-drained, average
Suggested use(s)cottage gardens, mixed borders/perennial beds, native collections
Hardiness zone(s)3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
Typeherbaceous perennial
Deer resistantyes
Deciduous or evergreendeciduous
Flower colorred
Bloom periodmid to late spring, summer
Exposurefull sun, afternoon shade

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