Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Penstemons


I grow a lot of Penstemons east of the house; they are so lovely and charming when they bloom in late spring, and there are several different species that like conditions spanning wet to dry.

Gulf Coast Penstemon is one of those penstemons that tolerates wet conditions, although in my garden it doesn't live very long. Usually once it's flowered and the seed is ripe it's gone. Well worth keeping going from seed for its magical colors, pink in bright daylight and electric lavender at twilight.




I wanted to add Smooth beardtongue to my garden after seeing it at the Mason Farm Biological Reserve, which is in the floodplain of the Haw River. (Disclaimer: I am never sure whether I'm looking at P. laevigatus or P. digitalis, or how much of a difference there is between the two.) These white-flowered penstemons have lasted in my garden up to 5 years.





These pink flushed ones may be hybrids, or just a color variant.




The penstemon below is like Gulf Coast Penstemon ~ beautiful, changeable in the light, tolerant of periodically wet feet, and short-lived. It looks like Eastern Gray Beardtongue may be one its parents.



I've posted about 'Midnight' many times. According to Annie's Annuals it is P. x gloxinoides, which is a European hybrid. Unlike my other penstemons this one actually forms a small shrub and doesn't set seed. All it asks for is good garden soil. It even reblooms some in summer and fall.





Eventually I'd like to back off so much seed starting, but I always plan on starting beardtongue from seed every year, as well as foxglove and whatever natives I've chosen from the NC Botanical Garden.


19 comments:

  1. Oh, I just LOVE Penstemons!!! You are so lucky to have so many different ones. I buy new ones all the time but most of them just don't seem to like my garden. The only ones that do well are Husker Red (they do the best) and Sour Grapes. Two years ago I found Ruby Candle on sale so I bought six of them....none of them made it. If you know of any that would do well in my area, I would love to know what they are.

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    1. Christy I think the same penstemons that do well here would also work for you. One Penstemon I didn't mention in this post was Penstemon calycosus; it's native to the eastern US and grows wild in Gail's (clay and limestone) garden.

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  2. Sweetbay, I am enchanted by your garden, and I love the way you so naturally combine pinks and purples and blues. I planted penstemon 'Husker's Red' a few years ago, and it quickly became a favorite. Thanks for introducing me to more fabulous varieties!

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  3. Lovely as always. Wish I could grow penstemons down here, but they don't like our heat and humidity. I will just enjoy yours.

    Hugs ~ FlowerLady

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  4. I love the penstemons too and have the Gulf coast. it seeds itself all over the place but that's OK with me. Isn't that a foxglove in the first picture? My absolute favorite. They all give such a pretty native look to a garden.

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    1. Yes that's foxglove! I love those too.

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  5. I added a couple Penstemons last fall/late summer, after seeing yours, I want to add lots more!!

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  6. Sweetbay, wonderful garden (I said you each time I saw your flowers!) I love penstemons but I haven't them in my garden, I need to plant them this spring.

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  7. Never had Penstemons. Beautiful, Sweetbay !

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  8. j' aime se ^côté chiffonné dans les jardins
    et se mélange de couleurs au tons pastel
    tout est d' une grande finesse, digne d' un jardin Anglais ♥♥♥
    bonne journée
    edith (iris) France

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  9. Penstemons never seem to last long here, if they even over-winter. I have always loved them, but regarded them as a fussy but beautiful perennial. After reading your post, I am thinking that I should think of them as an annual that I need to start from seed each spring. Now that I have a cold frame, I think I will try my hand at growing more flowers from seed. I was interested to read that you start foxgloves from seed as well. They don't self-seed in your garden? I was hoping that the foxgloves I grew last year would self-seed for a new crop of flowers this year. Am I going to be disappointed?

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    1. Jennifer I think mine don't self seed because historically I've planted them near edges and paths so they tend to lean over and drop their seeds where they will be mowed. Plus, and perhaps even more importantly, I lay down a lot of compost in the fall and that probably buries the seeds too deeply for them to germinate.

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  10. Penstemon, I've never seen it before, what a wonderful flower to showcase. I love all the different colour variations and the way it seems to attract bees (in your photos #9 & 10.)

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  11. Such inspiring photos Sweetbay. I have a few penstemons but only know the name of one, Husker Red. Do they prefer a limey soil Sweetbay? Yours look so happy and healthy, and I do love the white one.

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    1. Bren that's a good question! I think it just depends on the species. The ones native to the eastern US are fine with acidic soil. The ones native to CA and Europe I think of as needing a sweet soil and good drainage (with the CA species wanting really good drainage). The pH in my garden ranges from 5 to 6, depending on how heavily amended the area is, and some of my longest-lived Smooth Beardtongues are in an acid bed.

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  12. I've been surprised to see how tough some of the Penstemons are here in Portland...even growing in Hell Strips! I might have to add some this year...especially those rich blue/purple ones!

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  13. I love penstemon's, they are such lovely airy flowers and you have such a wonderful collection. They look great in those big clumps. I have one plant right now that is barely surviving, I think my poorly draining clay soil is the issue.

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  14. Beautiful penstemons! Love seeing them while it is gray outside :)
    ~Julie

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  15. The Gulf Coast variety would get my vote for colour. Subtile.

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