Mimulus – Monkey Mime

If you’ve never heard of Mimulus before, it’s a great time to become acquainted with this gorgeous little bloom. Mimulus, translated from Latin, means “mime” which refers to the funny clown-face the fat petals of the flower make when viewed head on. Its more well-known name, Monkey Flower, is also a reference to the flower shape and with just the smallest imagination anyone can see a silly monkey face.

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The earliest documented discovery of the common monkey flower was by Captain Meriwether Lewis, on the 4th July 1806, and amazingly, can still be viewed at the Lewis & Clark Herbarium at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Having thought the sample was lost, it was thankfully rediscovered, almost a century later, at the American Philosophical Society.

Mimulus_2The common Monkey Flower comes from the mountains across Northern America, Alaska and Mexico and is commonly seen along dams, rivers and streams, basically anywhere where a considerable amount of water can be found. Native Americans of the time used them for everything from a steam bath for a sore chest to the pulp for rope burns or even just raw for stomach aches. It was introduced to Europe sometime shortly before 1814 as documented by a botanist at the time, named Frederick Pursh, and since then it has journeyed far and wide.

Today we are blessed with a veritable treasure trove of hybrid seedlings, Mimulus x hybridus, to choose from when popping into our garden centres. These annuals come in a vast array of colours, from blotched or spotted to flamed and bi-coloured and even the good old standard solid colours. Remember to check the variety heights before you plant out your seedlings because they range anywhere from 10-30cm tall and it would such a shame to hide some of those funny faces behind a bunch of leaves for only the fauna to appreciate.

Mimulus thrive in warmer regions but will also perform in areas with light or little frost, especially if planted or placed in a protected position. Speaking of planting, these bright little faces prefer to be shaded from our harsh sun, at least partially, so pick a shady or semi-shade position and ensure the soil drains well because they like very moist, but not waterlogged soil to rest in.

Monkey Flowers make fabulous colourful borders to beds when using the shorter varieties, in deep pockets in rockeries and if you’re a kind gardener who always keeps your pots well watered, they will look gorgeous planted up in some pots en masse. If you’re concerned about the soil drying out too much between watering, pop some mulch over the surface of the soil as a precautionary measure so there will be no excuse for your plants to get stroppy.

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Mimulus requires little care, apart from the watering aspect, to look and stay looking good. You can pinch off dead blooms to encourage a longer flowering period but it is not essential. Why not bring some colour into your beds, pots, window boxes, rockeries and just about anywhere with these little monkey mimes? You’ll be spoilt for choice!

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