July in the Wonder Garden


Any NW hiker who has ever traversed a seep or jumped a creek has likely seen one of the sweetest sights of spring: the monkeyflower.

Shy at first, just a splash of yellow, one flower quickly gives way to dozens then hundreds of colorful rivulets running through alpine meadows and down roadside cliffs.

The seep monkeyflower’s need for water plus its ephemeral nature are among the reasons we don’t grow Mimulus guttatus (syn. Erythranthe guttata) in the Wonder Garden. But rather than go without its cheery, allegedly simian face, we found a gorgeous relative that thrives on the edge of our gravel and blooms for months.

We’re all too happy to share its name with you but first must mention two things.

Number one: You will covet this plant! Its deep creamsicle-colored flowers, frilled but never frivolous,  all but cover its foliage when in bloom. It’s undemanding, totally arresting in color and blends well with its neighbors despite being such a standout.

Number two: You’re not ever likely to see it for sale. For that, we are sorry. But at least we can explain.

It turns out that Mimulus bifidus ‘Junipero Serra’, the shrubby monkeyflower, is a devilish nursery plant. So says the plantsman we originally got it from, Leonard Foltz of Dancing Oaks Nursery in Monmouth.

“It doesn’t like to overwinter outside in pots,” he explained, “it rots out inside in pots, it’s tricky to take leaf cuttings at the right time, and its brittle so not good for mail order”.

And there you have it.

We didn’t know all this when we selected M. ‘Junipero Serra’ for our Plant of the Month and frankly panicked we wouldn’t meet our writing deadline if we had to start all over again. But a friend saved the day.

“You’re the Wonder Garden!” she offered. “Yours is the only place around people can see elusive treasures like this one!”

Right! And while it’s not quite as peachy, we’ve also added the apricot monkeyflower, Mimulus bifidus (syn. Diplacus grandiflorus) to the WG, an excellent nursery plant which will no doubt increasingly show its sweet face in the trade.