It's been quite a while since I participated in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and since I have a new plant obsession to talk about, might as well combine the two!
It's always exciting when we as gardeners discover some aspect of gardening, or some particular type of plant, that we hadn't really gotten excited about in the past. One of those for me is the genus Penstemon.
Formerly, this genus was in the Scrofulariaceae family, the figwort family, which includes Verbascum (mulleins), Buddleia (butterfly bush) and Diascia. But DNA typing has reclassified penstemons as well as relatives Digitalis, (foxgloves) Chelone (Turtlehead) and Veronica and Veronicastrum to the Plantaginaceae, or plantain family. Isn't that fun?
I wasn't always impressed by penstemons, and here's the first reason why: 'Husker Red', which has been very popular over the years with some gardeners, but would not prosper for me in my former garden. It didn't like the clay, the drainage or the cold wet winters. I decided I wasn't all that impressed by penstemons, either.
On a whim one year, I bought a couple of hairy penstemons (P. hirsutis) at the Native Plant Sale at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens here in Wolfville. They not only survived in my rock garden, they prospered.
You see where this is going, don't you? Into another deep fascination! I'm okay with that. These plants have a long blooming period, and give them good drainage and decent soil, and they do really well.
I have made the acquaintance of several new species and cultivars so far this spring, including the beautiful Wasatch beardtongue, P. cyananthus...
And somewhat similar in hues is P. strictus, the Rocky Mountain penstemon...
This relative of P. hirsutis, 'Prairie Twilight', has larger flowers on taller, stronger stems. Hummingbirds are really enjoying it and I'm really enjoying watching them!
So that's my story on penstemons so far...I might even give 'Husker Red' another try, now that I have more agreeable growing conditions. I like the reddish foliage of it, so it might as well join the rest of the collection. And who knows what else I'll find in my travels?