So I took her advice and planted the monarda in a sunny spot and watered, watered, watered. They grew successfully, and I was addicted to gardening.
There are many colors and varieties of monarda. For example, White Flower Farm sells 6 different types. My favorite is Monarda Jacob Cline. I have had good luck growing this in sun and in partial sun. It seems to like most soil conditions.
Monarda is a great perennial for many reasons. It has an exceptionally long blooming season. The flowers keep blooming with a strong burst of color for more than a month, which for a perennial is a very long time. They are also used as an herb for tea so they are not poisonous, which is a bonus if you have pets or kids. They also establish very quickly, giving your garden a full look faster than any other perennial. Monarda also smells great. Last but not least, they attract the best creatures: Hummingbirds, monarch butterflies, bees and birds will all visit your garden daily if you have this wonderful perennial in your garden.
So. . . if I were stranded on a desert island and could only take one plant with me, I would choose monarda.