PPP Offerings for Fall 2003: Mimulus ‘Valentine’ & ‘Verity White’

By: Bart O’Brien

Bart O’Brien is one of Southern California’s most highly respected native plant specialists and co-author with David Fross and Carol…

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A planting of David Verity’s hybrid monkeyflowers (Mimulus) at Tree of Life Nursery. Author’s photographs

A planting of David Verity’s hybrid monkeyflowers (Mimulus) at Tree of Life Nursery. Author’s photographs

Pacific Plant Promotions (PPP) is pleased to offer two spectacular California native subshrubs: Mimulus ‘Valentine’ and M. ‘Verity White’. These two, time-tested cultivars are the result of David Verity’s hybridization program at UCLA’s Mildred E Mathias Botanical Garden—work that spanned the 1960s to the 1980s. Verity hybrid monkeyflowers are characterized by their large flowers, floriferousness, range of flower color, and rapid growth rates.

‘Valentine’ has large, vibrant, bright red flowers with white throats highlighted by two, linear, orange nectar guides. It was originally grown from seed given by David Verity to Eleanor Williams (then of Yerba Buena Nursery). This individual plant was selected, named, and introduced by Yerba Buena Nursery in 1989. It is still the best pure red large flowered monkeyflower.

‘Verity White’ has incredibly large flowers that open palest cream, but immediately fade to pure white. This plant has been grown for many years without a cultivar name, so it is indeed a pleasure to officially designate this fine clone ‘Verity White’. Plants of this clone were obtained in the late 1980s at Yerba Buena Nursery, though it is not known for certain that it originated there.

At various times in the past, these plants have been recognized as a separate genus, Diplacus. They are now placed in the genus Mimulus, as their defining characteristic —their shrubby (or woody) growth habit—has been deemed insignificant by botanical scientists.

Cultivation 

When compared to many California native plants, these hybrid monkeyflowers will require additional care and maintenance for best garden performance. As with all of the shrubby monkeyflowers (species and hybrids), these plants tend to be brittle and are easily broken. Though it may mean that some flowers are sacrificed, young plants must be regularly pinched to develop strong, dense growth habits in order to support the large, heavy flowers. Flowering occurs during spring and early summer and continues for as long as favorable conditions exist. Typically, there are two flowers per leaf node, the flowers opening from the bottom to the top of each elongating stem. These ever-lengthening, unbranched, brittle flowering stems may eventually break under the weight of the flowers. For best results, prune the flowering stems (below the oldest blooms) when they reach about eight inches in length. Monkeyflowers that are cut back in this manner (and before the lowest seedpods have sufficiently matured) may generate another series of blooms a month or two later. In any event, these plants should be cut back at the end of each flowering season or immediately prior to the commencement of fall and winter new growth.

Plants may be grown in full sun to partial shade. Plants grown near the coast are best grown in full sun, while those grown in hot, dry, inland areas like the Central Valley and inland portions of southern California will flourish in partial shade or in the shade of deciduous trees.

In the garden, and in nature, monkeyflowers prefer well-drained soil and good air circulation. These drought-tolerant natives are susceptible to a variety of root rot pathogens, especially if they are watered excessively during their summer dormancy period. In many gardens, established monkeyflowers that are watered every two to four weeks in the summer will stay green enough to please most gardeners.

In gardens, pests and diseases are uncommon. Aphids are seasonally found on succulent new growth, but are easily removed by a spray of water or by the use of insecticidal soap. Viruses can also afflict monkeyflowers; symptoms include a declining vigor, splotchy foliage and/or flowers. There is no cure for these viruses, so infected plants should be removed and destroyed as soon as they are noted. (Most monkeyflowers are susceptible to numerous pathogens during vegetative propagation and nursery production.) Surprisingly, for a plant with such beautiful flowers, deer rarely bother them.

Mimulus ‘Valentine’

Mimulus ‘Valentine’

‘Valentine’ and ‘Verity White’ are beautiful container plants. Mature plants will require root space at least equivalent to a five-gallon nursery pot. Plants growing in containers will benefit from quarterly applications of a liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer, at half (or less) the rate recommended on the label. When grown in the ground, these monkeyflowers usually do not require fertilizers.

Cold tolerance is not fully known for ‘Valentine’ and ‘Verity White’, though both clones survived in San Francisco Bay Area gardens and at Yerba Buena Nursery in the freezes that hit in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sunset recommends them for their zones 7-9 and 14-24, and notes that they may be grown in zones 5 and 6 with protection.

During his breeding program, David Verity grew these hybrid monkeyflowers as annuals. Individual plants are not long-lived, but can be expected to perform well in gardens for approximately 3 to 5 years. Treat them similarly to marguerite daisies (Chrysanthemum frutescens): enjoy their profuse blooming, but take cuttings before the plants begin their inevitable decline.

Garden Companions

Suitable companions for ‘Valentine’ and ‘Verity White’ in a California native plant garden include coyote mint (Monardella villosa), wild buckwheats (Eriogonum species), California fuchsia (Zauschneria, syn. Epilobium, species and cultivars), blue witches (Solanum species), native sages (Salvia species and cultivars), coral bells and alum roots (Heuchera species and cultivars), California fescue (Festuca californica), Douglas and Pacific Coast hybrid irises (Iris douglasiana and hybrids), and ‘Canyon Prince’ wild rye grass (Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’).

Numerous exotic plants may be effectively combined with ‘Valentine’ and ‘Verity White’ monkeyflowers. A short list might include the following: rock roses (Cistus species and cultivars), bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum), perennial euphorbias (Euphorbia species), lavenders (Lavandula species and cultivars), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis and cultivars), and germanders (Teucrium species and cultivars).

Mimulus ‘Verity White’

Mimulus ‘Verity White’

History of the Hybrids 

Shrubby monkeyflowers have been actively hybridized since Howard McMinn began his pioneering efforts at Mills College in 1946. Since that time, a number of prominent Californian horticulturists have actively pursued this work, including Don Sexton of UC Davis, Lee Lenz of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Philip Van Soelen of California Flora Nursery, and most recently Richard Persoff of Alameda.

Throughout his work with monkeyflowers, David Verity named only two clones—‘Native Son’ and ‘Volunteer’—and these are no longer known to exist. He formally ended his work on the monkeyflower hybridization project in 1989, when he turned over his remaining stock to UC Riverside Botanic Gardens. (For more information, see Pacific Horticulture Fall ’93.) During the late 1970s and 1980s, Verity distributed seed and cuttings to a number of nurseries that typically sold the plants as “Verity Hybrids.” The first commercially available named cultivars were introduced in the mid to late 1980s by Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano and by Yerba Buena Nursery in Woodside. In 2004, PPP hopes to offer another pair of Verity hybrid monkeyflower cultivars that were originally introduced by Tree of Life Nursery.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden will be offering plants of both monkeyflowers as a package. To order them, see the Pacific Plant Promotions reservation card (opposite page 64) for details. Plants will be shipped in October and November, 2003.