One can help to make the country more beautiful by making its home grounds, its road sides, its river banks, its parks, intrinsically better in appearance and by opening the eye of those who fail to see such beauty as already exists. The art that accomplishes this is named Landscape Gardening.
Penstemons are evergreen perennials and shrubs with tubular or trumpet-shaped flowers, most commonly in reds and blues, but also pink, salmon, peach, rose, lilac, purple, white and, in rare instances, yellow. Blossoms are fairly large, presented in dense spikes from late spring to fall. Most tolerate alkaline or well-draining soils. Poor, rocky soils often produce sturdier specimens. Full sun, light shade inland and fast drainage with modest water. Very attractive to hummingbirds. Cut plants back fairly hard in late winter or earliest spring. Replace plants every three to five years for renewed vigor.
- ‘Holly’s White’: Compact, bushy, and upright to 2-4 high. Pure white flowers in summer.
- ‘Husker Red’: Attractive upright growth of glossy, red-tinged leaves. Small white flowers provide a nice contrast.
- ‘Apple Blossom’: A popular cultivar, to 2.5′ with numerous flowering stems covered in narrow foliage. Small, pale-pink flowers with white throats finely streaked in dark pink.
- ‘Evelyn’: Popular variety with small pink blossoms, narrow leaves and a compact 2′ bushy habit. Flowers are slender, pale rose pink with striped throats, borne closely together in summer and well into fall.
- ‘Hidcote Pink’: A tall, striking cultivar, grown in many countries for its vigorous and hardy nature. 3′ tall with stiff, green stems and narrow, salmon-pink flowers. Blooms summer to fall in coastal gardens.
- ‘Mother of Pearl’: Strong, upright growth to about 3′. Pale lavender-mauve flowers, darker near the base and lighter at the tips, with darker veins in the throat.
- ‘Osprey’: A taller cultivar to 3.5′ with white flowers flushed with pink on the tips. Plants form a loose clump and are best suited for the back of a mixed border. Full sun and regular garden water.
- ‘Pink Frost’: Gray-green leaves to 3′ with erect green stems forming a distinctive clump. Salmon-pink flowers from early summer to fall.
- ‘Thorn’: 2′ tall with large, narrow tubular, creamy white buds blushed rose-red along ends and pink along tube surface with darker tones along flower tip. Leaves are narrow. Often confused with ‘Apple Blossom’ because of similar white and pink color.
Red through burgundy shades:
- ‘Blackbird’: Tall and erect, but open, with fairly rigid stems to 4′. Thin branches sway in the wind giving plant a willow-like appearance. Particularly floriferous with long, large-lobed flowers and dark tipped buds. Dark purple-red in color, exhibiting a lower silvery-white interior with purple-rose streaks.
- ‘Burgundy’/ ‘Burgundy Brew’: To 4′ tall with broad leaves held on thick, stiff, reddish stems. Flowers form in clusters close to stem. Reddish-purple flowers. The flower is very fat, silky and beautiful.
- ‘Firebird’: A tough and durable selection to 3′ tall with flowers on the tops of the stems. Lower stem is green while upper is brownish red. Flowers are pinkish-red on upper and lower surfaces, with glowing red lips. Very floriferous. Vigorous, medium-large plant.
- ‘Garnet’: Rapid growth to 3′ high and 2′ wide. Upper region of stems is brownish-red with narrow green leaves. Garnet-colored flowers from March to October or later with white throat and the interior striped garnet also.
- ‘Ruby’: Light ruby red with no white in the throats. Moderate sized flowers on fairly compact plants.
Mauve to lavender shades:
- ‘Bev Jensen’: Lilac mauve flowers with white throats. Nice for pastel garden themes.
- ‘Catherine de la Mare’: Low and spreading, to 12″, with narrow leaves. Flowers open blue and mature purple. Well-drained soil a must.
- ‘Lady Alice Hindley’: Also sometimes called ‘Lady Hindley’ or simply ‘Alice Hindley’. An award winning old favorite introduced in 1931 with violet-mauve flowers and white throats opening from reddish-violet buds. Tall and erect clumps to 4′ with a somewhat open, loose habit.
- ‘Margarita BOP’: Bright lavender-blue flowers and a rose-purple tinge. This exceptional new cultivar has performed well in a wide range of garden conditions
- ‘Sour Grapes’: Grows 2-3′ high. Flower buds cluster at tip of flower stem and open to soft green, amethyst and blue, looking like unripe grapes. Throat white, streaked with fine purplish-red lines.
Deep purple shades:
- ‘Midnight’: Dark green leaves with erect stems of dark purple flowers, blooming from spring to late fall. Grows to 2.5′. Requires sun and good drainage. Perhaps the darkest flowers of all the penstemons.
- ‘Purple Passion’: Similar to ‘Midnight’,but with a color closer to plum.
Combining Penstemons in the Garden
Most Penstemons are bushy or tall garden perennials. They are especially attractive in mixed plantings and combine nicely with many other perennials. Penstemons are a must in a cottage garden, cutting gardens, or mixed perennial planting. Because of the similar flower structure try mixing Penstemons with Salvias and Phygelius. This combination will be a delight to hummingbirds as their all-time favorite nectar source. Low mounding plants at the base of Penstemons is suggested. For this, try perennial Nemesias, Diascias (Twinspur) or almost any of the true Geraniums. In a mixed border, mix in a few plants with contrasting foliage color or leaf shapes. An example of a subtle yet beautiful combination is pink, lavender or mauve Penstemons beneath a large gray leafed Buddleia (Butterfly Bush). To the side, a grouping of dark purple flowering Heliotrope and in front some true geraniums like ‘Mavis Simpson’ (pink), ‘Biokovo’ (nearly white) or ‘Pink Spice’ (bronze leaves and pink flowers).