I am looking for any info on these smaller, rock garden Penstemon:
P. caespitosus var caespitosus
P. davidsonii var. menziesii
P. glaber var alpinus
P. hirsutus ‘ Pygmaeus’
P. linariodes ssp coloradoensis
P. procerus var brachyanthus
P. procerus var formosus
P.rydbergii v oreocharis
I am purchasing from a fairly local nursery so I know they have had sucess with these, but I always love the info you guys provide on any plant for the rock garden!! Any culture tips and tricks would be appreciated.Are any of the above "thuggy" types that don't belong in a smaller rock garden? Any heavy re=seeders on the list? Any over-vigourus spreaders? Also, any good candidates I can research above and beyond this list> Any reference books that will help make these choices easier?? And any pics you might have would be adored!!
Thank-you all so much for any help with this list!! I am including a link to the place I am buying from...great pics and good prices if anyone wants to add a couple of these beauties to thier garden!! :-)
Thanks again!! Jamie
Anyone growing these small Penstemon....??
No penstemons are thugs in any way, in my experience! They tend, rather, to be quite highly sought-after plants, which cause a lot of disappointment to those who can't provide the conditions in which to grow them, LOL! But, aside from that...
All the ones you have chosen are western species, native to relatively dry areas. All will need very good drainage in your climate (1.06 m of annual precipitation - yikes!; for comparison, the climate here is penstemon-friendly with 16" or 40 cm annual precip). However, since the local grower/nursery has had success, you will presumably be able to find out all you need to know to provide the necessary drainage conditions (but from what I have read, it seems that that will be very important).
Of the ones you list, I have:
P. davidsonii var. menziesii
P. hirsutus ‘ Pygmaeus’
P. procerus var formosus
All (and many others beyond what you list) are fabulous plants with no bad habits.
The main reference book I'd suggest you seek is Penstemons by Robert Nold; it contains excellent explanations of the growing requirements for these plants; it's a Timber Press publication. If you get interested in identification, then Key to the Genus Penstemon by Robert and Kenneth Lodewick is the ticket. Both are available from NARGS.
This message was edited Mar 10, 2009 7:38 PM
Pygmaeus is very easy, and probably the most adaptable to your rainfall. From your list, I grow this one, P. caespitosa 'Claude Barr' and P. rupicola. I get about 30 inches(76cm) of rain annually.
While I have seen in friends' rock gardens here other penstemon species that are quite vigorous, I don't consider any of them as thugs or invasive either, even with the extra rain compared to their native environments.
Hi altagardener and Leftwood ~~
Thanks so much for the quick responses!! I am always amazed at just how helpful this forum is - I've never been let down by you folks! :-) I am re-inventing my rock gardens, and want to include many more Penstemon than I have had in them in the past. I grow about 20-25 Penstemon throughout my garden beds and borders, but most are the common named hybrids and varieties easy to find at the nurseries, as this is all I knew when I "discovered" this genus. These plants are now HUGE! My 5-8+ year old plants are easily 4+ feet across at the end of summer and about that tall in many cases. But then I found on-line ordering and bought a book on them and learned just how many other types there were - I was hooked! :-) But these smaller species Penstemon are relatively new to me, and I'm loving the process of learning all about them. Don't you love that part of gardening? When I said "thuggy" I really just meant big, robust, as in too big for my smaller rock garden/troughs where these plants will be planted. This genus was the first, but definitely not the last :), that ever grabbed me and had me buying every one I could get my hands on, buying books about them, taking notes on how they grew for me, and on-line researching. My poor family thought I had some mild mental condition - "It's only a flower" after all. They could not understand all my interest and excitement when I would find a new one. I came to realize they really all do look the same to them.. :-} I also quickly learned that my DG friends would understand LOL :-}
So, thank-you for understanding and for taking the time to answer my questions! I look forward to sharing more about my new rock gardens with you guys.
Most of the named penstemons hybrids are larger, garden worthy, and do well in what we would call typical garden soil, rather than rock garden soils, which are far more lean, gritty, porous and has much more mineral (rock) content and very little compost or humus. Lean means not rich or lacking in abundant nutrients. Penstemon species like this rock garden soil, which may just look like sandy gravel to a regular gardener.
Jamie, I get even more rain per year than you do so Penstemon are REALLY challenging here. However, of your list I grow (or have grown) all except purpusii. The only ones still going are davidsonii, hirsutus, rupicola, procerus and rydbergii. Davidsonii and rupicola hail from wetter climates in the NW so will be easy for you. procerus can also tolerate quite wet areas. Hirsutus is an easterner so is also more tolerant to wet. For me caespitosus was useless. Linarioides did OK if placed in a cold frame in winter to keep out excess winter wet. It has lived 3 years so far this way but those in the open did not survive. Cyananthus and glaber did not last more than 3 years outdoors (maybe they are short-lived??...many Penstemon are) Rydbergii is outside 3 years so far and seems OK.
I agree that all of these are choice rockery plants. And yes, Robert Nold's book on penstemon is THE resource for penstemons.
The life span of penstemon species in the garden is probably something that's influenced strongly by conditions. In the conditions here, I haven't found any of the ones I grow to be "short-lived". In Nold's book, he comments that Barr and others "strove to correct the image of penstemons as short-lived", with 6-10 years being the expectation (and this is the range of what I see). Nold also comments that, in the wild, in extremely dry areas (desert mountains), they may have life cycles that are 2-3 years or even just 1 year. I suspect, on the other end of the spectrum, i.e. wet, humid areas, lifespans may be similarly short.
I was hoping to hear from you -- thanks so much for the info! Just what I was hoping for, some specific info on the mentioned plants. I really do appreciate it! And the book you both recommended is AWESOME. I am over half-way through it and my list has already changed a bit. Great resource - I read until way too late last night, and had visions of Penstemon dancing through my dreams..LOL :) Thank-you again for sharing your garden experience with these plants with me. Maybe some pics this season...if not too much trouble? Any reason I can think of to see more pics of your wonderful garden I will use shamelessly! :-} I look forward to redoing these rock garden beds and troughs with inspiration and input like that!
Tammy, I should say you grow that Penstemon hirsutus really well! What a picture, it's a lovely sight blooming in a drift like that! Thank-you so much for sharing that with me!
Thanks again all of you!
Don't know what a dancing penstemon would look like, but it must be a good thing, LOL.
My Pygmaeus tops out at about 8-9 inches; there is lots of variation in the seed. If you grow from seed, you should be choosing only the most dwarf seedlings to keep. I doesn't look like it in this pic, but I think mine is in a drier, hotter area than Tammy's. I have seed from this plant if you (or anyone) would like some.
I have already ordered plants, but would love seed as well. I will D-mail you later after the weeding is done. Horrible storm coming and I gotta get some stuff done before then... :-} Thanks for the pic, and the seed offer!!
Dancing Penstemon....might be the new name of my garden...LOL
Dancing Penstemon Gardens :-}
What I like most about P. hirsutis 'Pygmaea' is the deep red-purple it turns in the winter--and the way the frost can collect on just the tips of the hairs. (I am attaching a photo of this.) I will be very interested to know if in your warmer region, it also turns red.
I have read many sources and even a book about coloration in plants, and not one has given a good explanation for how and why plants that retain their foliage all winter turn red-blue in the winter, and back to green in the Spring, but I watch it happen to many of my rock garden plants. My personal theory is that these pigments (anthocyanins) are best suited to absorb the heat of the sun in the winter, thus warming the plant and enabling it to photosynthesize faster, but I have no proof.
So please get back to us about whether it changes color in the winter. For me, it seeds around very gently, but more than any of the others I've grown.
Mine changes to that color too, for winter, and it certainly is pretty.
Alpines and arctic-affinity plants often turn purple over the winters months. Yes, the idea that the darker colour will allow them to heat up faster in spring and resume growth earlier is an accepted theory. Also, the anthocyanins can act as an anti-freeze allowing them to withstand colder temps. ALSO, it acts as a sun screen, preventing the plants from being bured by strong spring sun before the plants get a chnace to accimatize to it after being snow covered all winter.
Many of the native evergreen alpines in Newfoundland turn purple in winter...heck some stay purple all year long! Check out the pic of Diapensia lapponica....in bloom in early June but still purple (it does turn green by July)
I had noticed this occuring in my garden, just never gave much thought to the "why" of it! It is interesting though, and quite pretty! Love your pic Todd (as usual :-} )
Susy~ I will pay attention to wether or not this happens on my Penstemon, and will let you know! Your photo really shows the deep maroon/burgandy/purple coloration on that foliage beautifully!
Thanks to all of you for all your info!