Sunday, August 20, 2017

Mandala mint revisited...some more glimpses of a spectacular native plant.

Monardella macranths 'Marian Sampson'

Of course, no one calls it Mandala mint (yet!): this little hummingbird mint from the mountains of Southern California has created quite a splash in recent years. I've blogged about it a year ago, and probably shall again (I give myself some of the credit for its current popularity--I believe I was the first to grow this outdoors in Colorado, and cuttings from a plant I won at the Denver meeting of the International Plant Propagators Meeting in Denver were the source for probably nearly all the plants in cultivation around the country now (at least outside California!)...It does have a connection to a Mandala, which I hope will become apparent...but first, a slight digression...
Medicine Wheel, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming
The oldest garden mandala...(the mint connection is yet to come) may be this one, in Wyoming. It would be a great place to experience the eclipse tomorrow! I had never made the connection between the Medicine Wheel and the increasingly popular form of the Labyrinth, such as the one below. Perhaps it is no accident that within a narrow circumference a few hundred feet around this Mandala grow three of the choicest plants in the West: Jones' columbine, Kelsey moss and a carpeting Clematis (Aquilegia jonesii, Kelseya uniflora and Clematis columbiana ssp. tenuiloba for you  sticklers). I have featured these in many blogs I've done about the Bighorns and Beartooth in the past)

These two mandalas are perhaps 45 miles apart as the crow flies, and the labyrinth above was designed (and built) by Jay Moody, who oversees the fabulous St. Thomas the Apostle Retreat Center in Cody. Jay and his wife Connie have created a restful haven at the Center, with wonderful gardens and a pristine slice of nature surrounding them...but the third and most recent garden Mandala is part of Denver Botanic Gardens, see next...

This labyrinth was built and designed by staff at Chatfield Farms: I was astonished when I first saw this last year, freshly planted with all manner of choice rock garden gems. Among them were none other than a half dozen or more incredible clumps of our Southern California mint: who ever dreamed it would love this site so much?

They bloomed prolifically last year--and I thought they'll never survive in such a flat surface, in such an exposed spot. I was very wrong...

This year they have formed their own perfect little mandalas of exquisite orange scarlet, and they've been blooming pretty much non stop since late spring. I took this picture over a month ago, and the other day I went by and they looked pretty much the same! Obviously, should you have problems growing this gem, may I suggest you design your own labyrinth/mandala?

Although the colonies at Kendrick Lake Park in Lakewood did just as well in their open rock garden setting--you needn't necessarily construct a symmetrical circle...

Can't resist showing it in a different light....

Or for those without large gardens, they seem to do quite well in containers as well!

I conclude in my own garden, where under large Scots pines, alongside Spigelia marilandica and heucheras, my own Mandala mints have grown well, although not nearly as floriferous in dappled shade...It's obvious this little gem is much tougher and more adaptable than has been supposed (I see it in almost every Denver garden I visit) and I'm gettiung miore and more reports of its success around the country and abroad. Remember--a mandala may be the ultimate secret to growing it however!

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