H: So, dear Watson, I've heard that you're working on a solution to the dead-looking monkey flower problem. I'm pleased to hear it, that brown thing dead center in the picture above is a bit much even for the native plant lover. And the salvias right along the walkway to the front door are also an unfortunate choice. Summer dormant is for more secluded spots in the garden!
W: Yes, indeed. My first step was to go on a long hike in a habitat that is fairly similar to the front garden. Exposed, few trees, not too far from home. I chose the Black Mountain trail and took good notes.
H: Splendid! A logical first step. Find the same habitat out in the wild. So, what did you find?
W: Well, first I saw some Lonicera hispedula, berries still green, with attractive green leaves. Even a few pretty pink flowers. That made me think I was on the right trail, 'cause I do have that plant in the front garden as well.
S: Yes yes, but that's a vine so it won't do for the spot where the monkey flower is.
W: Of course. Next I saw Lepechina fragans (pitcher sage), which again reaffirmed that I was looking in the correct habitat. Though this plant just gets too tall for the monkey flower spots.
W: Next, I actually saw some monkey flowers. And they didn't look much better than the ones in my garden.
W: When I looked more closely, I saw a very attractive smallish shrub with glossy green leaves right next to the monkey flower.
H: Well, Watson, that would be Rhamus crocea, or redberry. Which is admittedly nice and green year round, but...
W: Yes, sir, I realized myself that this dainty little plant gets to be 10 feet. And I hope I've learned my lesson from the salvia that I have to take out, so I realize this is not a great choice.
H: Quite unfortunate. So, what did you do next to find a solution?
W: Next, sir, I looked at plants in my own garden that do not go summer dormant and that grow in a similar location. And, actually, I believe I have several choices. Right now, I'm considering these plants:
- Heterotheca sess. bolanderi 'San Bruno Mtn.' (San Bruno Mountain Golden Aster)
- Artemisia pycnocephala 'David's Choice' (Sand Hill Sage)
- A low-growing ceanothus, maybe Ceanothus gloriosus 'Anchor Bay'
- A low-growing manzanita, maybe Emerald Carpet