Although I have walked the paths of Denver Botanic Gardens for over three decades, hardly a day goes by without something surprising me. Or in this case blowing my mind! For years I have struggled to grow various "coyote mints" (one of the many common names given to the genus Monardella, which is largely restricted to Western America). I've decided they are pretty much hopeless. Most of these come in various pale lavender or purple shades, and are pleasant enough: their fragrance can be very powerfully minty to boot.
One species is the unquestioned queen of the genus, and I have succeeded in overwintering it a few times and coaxing a few of its miraculous red flowers out before it expired.
Then one day as I walk past the Rock Alpine Garden in the south end of the Gates Montane Garden an explosion of red accosted me. The plant you see in this picture stopped me dead in my tracks. My colleagues had obviously found the perfect spot and Monardella macrantha showed its full, glorious potential. A star is born!
This stunning native plant is found at moderate elevations in the mountains of California: like so many Californians, it has found Colorado a congenial place to settle down, and now that we have overwintered this plant so successfully, we can test it more widely and see if indeed this isn't something to offer at plant sales and perhaps put in the pipeline for Plant Select. One thing is for sure: I will scour my garden to see if I can find the right place for this to prosper like this in my home garden. At the Gardens, truly, wonders never cease!