Thursday, September 8, 2016

Mimulus Lewisii

Mimulus lewisii at Paradise, Mt. Raninier

Another Mimulus lewisii at Paradise

Mimulus lewisii at Crater Lake, Oregon

Mimulus lewisii seedling in my garden

     Many years ago, when I was first starting my old garden on Bainbridge Island, I came across some plants of Mimulus lewisii at Wells Medina Nursery, and I was at that stage of gardening when I bought all unusual plants I could find.  I was warned by the nursery staff that these plants, although native to the Pacific Northwest, were tricky to grow in a garden setting.  I bought them anyway, planted them in a fairly wet area of my old garden (much of it was very wet), and that was the last I saw of them.  I don't really remember what happened to them, but in any event, they did not thrive.  So I had thought, until very recently, that these were difficult plants in a garden setting.
     Recently, as you probably realize by now, I have become interested in native plants, and Mimulus lewisii is one of our most showy native plants.  So I have given it another go, and I am here to report on that effort.  First, I should preface this by saying that a couple of years ago I purchased three plants of a Mimulus lewisii hybrid with Mimulus cardinalis from Annie's Annuals, and I had planted them in one of the moistest spots in my new garden.  They loved it there.  In the second year after planting they bloomed almost all summer, although I was disappointed in the color of the blossom--it was a very pastel pink, not the darker pink of Mimulus lewisii, although the flower shape was much the same.  Then, in the third year I could see that I was going to have a problem with this hybrid.  Not only was it spreading aggressively from the roots, but it was also freely seeeding itself about the garden.  So I bit the bullet and took all of this hybrid out of the garden.  I still see seedlings of it popping up in its old location, though. 
     Last year I came across Mimulus lewisii at Woodbrook Native Plant Nursery in Gig Harbor, Washington, and so I bought a plant and planted it in my new garden.  This was a plant in a four inch pot, and not very impressive in its container.  I also happened upon more of these when I was visiting Wild Ginger Farm in Oregon, and so bought three more, which I also planted in my new garden.  By the way, if you ever get the chance to visit Wild Ginger Farm, it is a great place, and I highly recommend it. 
     All of these plants did well after being planted, even though they weren't planted in particularly wet spots, although they also weren't planted in the driest areas of my garden, either.  As they bloomed I noticed that the Wild Ginger Farms plants were a lighter pink, more like the hybrid, than the plant from Woodbrook Native Plant Nursery.   After much googling, I found that the flower color of Mimulus lewisii can vary from light pink to dark pink, depending on its area of origin.  So if you want a dark pink flower on your Mimulus lewisii, make sure it is a form which has dark pink flowers. 
     I eventually took out all the light pink plants, leaving only the darker pink one.  That one has done well and I see lots of little seedling plants of it around the mother plant.  I have also found seedlings from last year which are now mature and flowering in the garden.  The last picture above is of one of those seedlings.  So I intend to dig up some of those seedlings and try them in different parts of the garden, particularly on the very steep slope behind my house.
     As you can see from the pictures above, Mimulus lewisii is a common sight at high elevations in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.  It tends to grow at stream edges or in very wet meadows, although I saw a lot of it at Artists Point near Mt. Baker recently growing in what looked liked gravelly areas at the side of roads, and on top of Artists Point itself.  Even so, those are probably fairly moist areas due to the fact that there was probably recent snow melt in the area.  In any event, I think it is safe to say that Mimulus lewisii is a moisture lover, and would probably not do well in a dry part of a garden.  It also seems to grow in fairly open conditions, so I doubt it would do well in the shade of trees.  Otherwise, it does not seem to be all that difficult a plant to grow in more lowland conditions.  I saw some of the most attractive collections of it at Paradise, Mt. Rainier where it was growing in damp meadows, along with Castilleja parviflora, lupines, and Bird's Foot Pedicularis.  I would love to get a meadow like that established in my own garden someday.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Louseworts, aka Pedicularis

Pedicularis ornithorhyncha, or bird's beak lousewort at Paradise, Mt. Rainier

Bird's beak lousewort by a stream at Paradise, Mt. Rainier

More bird's beak lousewort at Paradise

Probably Pedicularis contorta at Paradise

More Pedicularis contorta at Paradise

Pedicularis groenlandica, aka elephant's head lousewort at Reflection Lakes, Mt. Rainier National Park

     I have done a fair amount of hiking this summer in both Mt. Rainier National Park and in the Olympic National Park, both of which are just a few hours drive from where I live now.  One of my purposes in doing so was to see and photograph wildflowers, and in the process, I became aware of a genus that seems to me to hold great promise for the home gardener.  That genus, of course, is Pedicularis, which, until this year, had been completely unknown to me.
     As it turns out, there are at least 8 species of Pedicularis which are native to the Pacific Northwest.  A listing of these can be found here.  And a review of those species reveals that almost all of them are very striking plants.  In particular, Pedicularis groenlandica is very showy.  I have posted above, as the last image, an iPhone photo I got of this in a marshy meadow at Reflection Lakes in Mt. Rainier National Park.  This was taken at the end of the flowering period for these, so even though there were many of them at that location, I was only able to get the one shot you see above.  However, if you want to see more amazing images of these plants, here is a good link.  This plant is found in the high mountains of western North America, and in Canada and Greenland (hence the name groenlandica).  It grows in moist marshy areas.
     These plants are in the Orobanche (commonly referred to as broomrape) family, and they are parasitic or hemiparisitic on other plants.  It is probably the case that these Pedicularis are hemiparasitic in the same way that castillejas are hemiparasitic;  that is, their roots gain nutrients from the roots of nearby plants.  It is for this reason, probably, that they have not been cultivated much in gardens, just like castillejas have not been cultivated much in gardens.  But as we saw in my earlier entry on castillejas, castillejas have proven to be amenable to cultivation, so why not Pedicularis?  Indeed, I have uncovered various protocols online for growing Pedicularis from seed, including one here.
     These plants are showy enough, it seems to me, that even if great care must be taken to get them to grow from seed in the home garden, such care would be warranted.  I can remember when Dactylorhizas were considered difficult to grow and hard to find.  Not so any more, simply because gardeners have taken up their cause and lo and behold, it turns out they are not so difficult after all.  And many of the Pedicularises rival Dactylorhizas in showiness.
     I recently acquired seed of some Pedicularis from Specialty Perrennials Seeds, and I intend to directly sow the seeds into some moist beds I have in my garden.  I can only hope that at least some of them come up!