What I'm planting this summer: bergamot

21:44, Dec 17 2012

A few weeks ago now, I visited the farmers' market at Hastings. Among the organic vege sellers, coffee carts and sauce purveyors, was a stall where I spent many happy minutes deciding which plants would come home with me in a hot car. If I could have, I would have brought the whole place home with me.

Eventually, I settled on a raspberry plant (which I've now regretted, my raspberries are putting out suckers, or new plants, like crazy, so off to the Northern Suburbs community garden they will go) and a bergamot plant. They both cost me $3, which feels like peanuts compared to what you might pay in a garden centre. 

Bergamot, also known as bee balm, appealed to me because I love ornamentals that also double as pollinators, or companion plants for my edibles. Bergamot is also a herb you can make tea from, but don't try to make Earl Grey out of it - it's bergamot orange, a fruit, that gives Earl Grey its zing.

A perennial, I've planted my bergamot in a corner where it will get sun until about 2pm in the summer, as it likes a partially shady spot. I've given it plenty of space as it will grow up to a metre and a half, and needs about 60cm square to spread out into. It needs to be dug up and divided every so often, so I've put it in a spot where I won't break my neck trying to get to it. At the moment, it's surrounded by some dianthus which I might move as the bergamot gets bigger. 

I can't wait until it blooms it's bright red spiky flowers, and we can test whether it really lives up to it's bee-inducing name. 

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Have you grown bergamot? What plants do you grow just to bring bees to your garden?

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Lower image source here.