Monkey Flowers

perennial monkey flower (Mimulus spp.)hybrid monkey flowers (Mimulus hybridus)If you could plant nothing but monkey flowers, you would have a garden full of kaleidoscopic color all spring and summer long. Red, yellow, orange, pink, magenta, violet, white, and combinations of all of the above would be abundantly on display.
Some monkey flowers are annuals (Mimulus species) and some are perennials (Diplacus species). California native monkey flowers belong to both groups, but the perennial types are far more rewarding for three reasons: quantity of blooms, longevity in the garden, and drought tolerance.
One such perennial is the sticky monkey flower (Diplacus aurantiacus), with representatives flowering in red, maroon, orange, and peach. Scarlet monkey flower (Diplacus puniceus) is also noteworthy. There are a number of perennial monkey flowers with apricot-salmon colored blooms, including the locally seen Agoura spunky monkey flower (Diplacus longiflorus), as well as its yellow cousin.
As for monkey flower annuals, the native butter yellow monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus) with bright green foliage is a happy selection, although it only appears after wet winters such as we experienced this year. Hybrid annual monkey flowers, although somewhat thirsty and, come summer, desirous of partial shade, are stunningly colorful, appearing in violet, orange, yellow, pink, and red.
Tiger monkey flowers (Mimulus tigridus) are typically yellow with red markings. For a wonderful collection of California native monkey flower photos, together with information on the habitat of each species, visit Hybrid monkey flowers (Mimulus hybridus), although not as drought tolerant as California native species, have larger blooms and are real eye stoppers, whether planted in containers or in the garden.
Q: Can you tell me how to distinguish powdery mildew fungus from a giant whitefly infestation since these two pest problems appear similar to my uninformed eye?
There are clumps of white fungus on the ground around a palm stump and something white growing on a crabapple tree near a hibiscus which in previous years had infestations of white fly. How do I tell the difference, and can I use the same treatment to control both pests? What do you suggest?
A: Based on their appearance, the most obvious difference between powdery mildew fungus and giant whitefly is that the fungus appears on leaf surfaces, while whitefly signs are most notable on leaf bottoms. Additionally, powdery mildew can often be wiped clean, whereas whitefly nests (concentric circles) and excretions (filaments up to two inches long hang down in beard-like fashion), are sticky and cannot be easily be removed from the plant. Incidentally, those “clumps of white fungus on the ground around a palm stump” may actually be actinomycetes, which are a kind of beneficial, decomposing bacteria found on rotting wood and in compost piles.
Powdery mildew is a pest that can attack virtually any plant species. Wherever leaf surfaces of sun-loving plants are constantly shaded, powdery mildew may become a problem. Roses, for example, are often victimized by this fungus, which may even show up on the exterior of unopened flower buds. I am confident that your crabapple, despite its proximity to a whitefly inhabited hibiscus, is infected with powdery mildew. Many common deciduous fruit trees, including apple, crabapple, plum, peach, and cherry, are in the rose family and all are susceptible to powdery mildew where sunlight is not plentifully available.
Fine horticultural oil, available at most nurseries, may be used in treating both powdery mildew and giant whitefly, although it is more effective as a preventive measure or where these pests have not yet fully infested a plant. Where giant whitefly has a foothold, you may have to remove all infested leaves and then spray the remaining foliage from below every few days until the pest is no longer found on newer, shoot terminal growth. Insecticidal soap, religiously applied, may also be effective in controlling whiteflies, as are frequent blasts of water from a hose. Lastly, applications of so-called earthworm castings, a euphemism for earthworm poop, on the soil surface under the infested plant may help keep whiteflies at bay.
I have been watching the giant whitefly for nearly two decades and have become familiar with its mode of operation. Although it has favorite target or host plants such as hibiscus, xylosma, Richmondensis begonia or any plant of the large genus Begonia the common name for the family Begoniaceae, mostly succulent perennial herbs of the American tropics. I have seen the giant whitefly in geranium geranium,common name for some members of the Geraniaceae, a family of herbs and small shrubs of temperate and subtropical regions.
Yet in assessing whether your garden is susceptible to giant whitefly attack, sun exposure and other cultural conditions are no less important than the presence of particular plant species.
A hibiscus that is a foundation plant, which means it is planted right up against a house or building, is a favorite giant whitefly host. Only half of a foundation plant is exposed to the sun and air. The other side is eternally shaded and bereft of any breeze passing over or circulating through its leaves. Where sun and air are blocked out, the giant whitefly feels most at home.
The most glorious, yet least publicized, spring flower is the iris. Most nurseries do not have irises on display because their bloom time is generally short and their foliage is far from gaudy and easily overlooked. However, any true flower lover cannot live without irises in the garden. Their voluptuous beauty is without equal even while their maintenance requirements are minimal.
Irises are as drought tolerant as any California native species and all they do is develop into ever-expanding clumps from one year to the next. If you would like to add irises to your garden, visit the annual spring flower show and plant sale next weekend, April 16-17, at Westfield Mall in Woodland Hills, 6100 Topanga Canyon Boulevard. For more information, call the San Fernando Valley Iris Society at 818-346-8679 or go to the website at
The Laurus nobilis, whose bay leaves are the ones used in cooking, is now in bloom, This plant is not grown for its flowers but still, on a large arboreal specimen, the golden clusters of blooms will get your attention. Bay laurel can be found in the herb section of most nurseries, where it usually is priced, in a small pot, for a dollar or two. This is truly a bargain when you consider that you are buying a lifetime’s supply of bay leaves. The bay laurel, left to its own devices, will grow into a 50-foot tree, but it may just as easily be trained into a high or low hedge, or used for topiary – the art of training living trees and shrubs into artificial, decorative shapes. Topiary is known to have been practiced in the 1st century AD. The earliest topiary was probably the simple development of edgings, cones, columns, and spires to accent a garden scene. subjects. Keep it out of direct midday and afternoon sun, especially in the west Valley, or its foliage will burn.
– Shirley Cohen,
Valley Glen
Tip of the Week
Although not generally considered when discussing options for vines, the Lady Banks rose does merit acknowledgement during such a conversation. I recently saw a massive Lady Banks rose that had completely covered the south facing facade of a two-story building, where at least 10,000 roses were blooming at once. Yet this is a versatile rose that may be cut back drastically from one year to the next if, for example, your desire is for discrete Lady Banks fountains of delicate double yellow (Lutea) or white (Alba) roses displayed in your garden each spring. The growth habit of Lady Banks is an arching one so cutting back is essential, following bloom, to her maintenance. Also, be aware that spring is the only season that Lady Banks blooms but, on the plus side, she is not bothered by fungus or insect pests.

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