Monday, June 1, 2009

Penstemon digitalis: a frontier colony in the Fern Valley Meadow

I first met this plant through its cultivar 'Husker Red' in the early 90's. I was doing design/install and came across a dozen plants at Shemin's Nursery in Burtonsville. It was winter and their defining characteristic, a bright red winter rosette, was on brilliant display. I bought all the plants, sold half of them to the job I was on, kept one, and gave the rest away. I remember dropping by Hank Doong and Sue Bentz's house and sticking one into a perennial planting in their back yard. Despite lacking the bright red rosette, the straight species is still a great plant; look at those flowers!

Fern Valley has hundreds and hundreds of P. digitalis that wander about spreading slowly by seed. I love the flowers but apparently not everyone does. I have seen references to removing the flowers! so the plant has more energy to produce leaves??!!?? Don't do it. For one thing, this is one of those plants that is occasionally negatively affected by the premature removal of flowering spikes. For another, the flowers are lovely!

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