June 8, 2012

Elfin Pink

They are decidedly not elfin. They are very pink, however. They are Penstemon barbatus 'Elfin Pink'.


When my gardens were big and empty and my plants were few and paltry, I desperately wanted lots and lots of big blowsy fillers everywhere.  Big shrubs in the center. Mounding plants all around.  More mounding plants, and spikes too. 

I put several Penstemon 'Elfin Pink' at the front edge of this large garden, thinking they would be small, dainty -- elfin, perhaps? -- and a good edger in front of other penstemons, notably the 'Husker's Red' dark leaved ones.

On the left the 'Elfin Pink' penstemon and the white flowered 'Husker's Red' duke it out from behind deep purple salvia.  A large white baptisia pendula arches above. From this angle it looked cottagey.

These pink bloomers were not edgers.  Instead, they took up some space and they flopped.  They hid the beautifully colored 'Husker's Red' penstemons which have dark maroon foliage and rosy tinted white spikes of flowers. 

I know, I could stake them, but at the front of the border stakes look intrusive.  This is just too crowded.

I could never make up my mind about the color.  Were they too pink or a nice pop with the more subdued plants in back?  I couldn't decide, but the basic problem of too much height and too much lankiness in front was evident.

This spring I moved them.  I immediately liked the cleaner look in front of the emerging 'Husker's Red' plants.  Most good garden design is simply editing.

In early spring, with the penstemons in front cleared out, I can see the reddish clumps of 'Husker's Red' and the garden looks so much neater.

Now, blooming pink and white spires of Husker's Red penstemon mingle with yellow coreopsis.
Up close the 'Husker's Red' penstemon flowers are delicate and pretty and I can see them now that they are no longer hidden.

Of course, the 'Elfin Pink' plants had been happy in the raised, quick draining edge slope of the original garden, and I moved them to a swale in a new bed where water collects coming down the lawn.  There's more room to fling themselves about and lay down, but they may not like the slower draining conditions.
'Elfin Pink' aren't as big and floppy so soon after transplant, but they have room now to fill out without crowding neighbors.

This newer, large garden still has empty space to cover. Hiding behind the pink penstemons is a very small new Rosa glauca, redleaf rose.  The blue green foliage of the rose turns out to be a perfect foil for the odd, hot pink of the penstemons.
This color pink is hard to use with any other colors in the garden.  It looks good, though, with dusty blue green leaves of a Rosa glauca.  Hot and cool work together.

In this new emptier garden my unkempt non-elfin penstemons will have to do the job once more, until they fill this space up and get too rangy as they did before.  When the rose grows to its six foot spread, I'll have to edit things again.

But until then, I hope 'Elfin Pink' goes all out, all pink, and all floppy in its new home.

20 comments:

  1. I saw Rosa Glauca in a garden we visited at the Fling. I want that rose. It is so pretty. The foliage is fantastic. I love that blue grey color. Your "elfin" plant is huge. Ha... It just goes to show you never know until you plant them.

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    1. Lisa, so much for a label of "elfin"! I do love the rosa glauca foliage, so unusual. It only flowers briefly and doesn't repeat, but what an interesting color the leaves are.

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  2. Moving plants around, editing, doesn't happen much at all at my place. The only spots where that is possible is in the courtyard and shadehouse where I can move potted plants around. It's always interesting following the work of gardeners who can dig things up and plant them elsewhere. Your bed with the pink Penstemon removed now looks fantastic. What a different it makes when you can finally see the beauty of that 'Husker's Red' on its own. It's a real beauty.

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    1. Bernie, it sure would be easier for me to move pots around! Digging up established perennials is one thing, but I also move large shrubs and young trees around, constantly editing.

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  3. Laurrie, I've been fussing over my flower bed and over thinking where to put things and your words about editing hit home. It doesn't matter really where I put things now as I can move them later as needed! I just planted Penstemon Prairie Dusk and wondered whether to put it at the front or further back in the bed. I think you answered my question.

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    1. Marguerite, I would like to see Prairie Dusk penstemon. There is also another called Dark Towers that is supposed to be a longer-flowering improved version of Husker's Red.

      Go ahead and plant your borders, then have fun editing and moving!

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  4. Forgot to mention that I've nominated you for the 'Sunshine' Award. You are definitely a source of inspiration not only to me, but to many other bloggers out there and I think the award is well-deserved.

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    1. Bernie, thanks so much. I am honored!

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  5. For sure, the key to good design is editing. It doesn't always come easily, but you're usually happy with the results.

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    1. Lee, this is the first year since I started gardening this plot about seven years ago that things are being edited out! What a revelation to be removing plants.

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  6. I love the pink with the rosa glauca, and the Husker's Red looks fabulous with the coreopsis. I am always moving plants around, trying to find the right spot, but sometimes it's hard to decide exactly what is wrong with a grouping and then find a good solution. You did well!

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    1. Deborah, it was kind of an accident that the Elfin Pink wound up with the rosa glauca, but I like it. And the coreopsis made its own decision to mingle with the Husker's Red.

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  7. I have to say, I like the big, blowsy full look of that garden bed too, but I understand the delight that comes from editing and tidying. Rosa glauca is one I've wanted for a while but I really don't have anywhere to plant it where it wouldn't be too crowded. It does look good with the Penstemon.

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    1. Lyn, I have seen mature rosa glauca planted in other gardens where it is tall but open below. It can be kept large but vase shaped, allowing stuff to grow beneath it. I don't know if that would work for you, but it might let you find a place already planted where a rosa glauca could be put in to grow above some other plants. Worth considering!

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  8. I think moving them was smart. They were just too big for their spot. If they don't like the drainage of their current spot, lift them in the fall, dig their hole a bit deeper, add pea gravel or growers grit to their hole, and replant them a bit high in the same spot. It will help with the drainage. I think the Elfin Pink and rosa glauca will be beautiful together. I love that rose's leaves. :o)

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    1. Tammy, So far the pink penstemons look good after their move, but if they get fussy about any wetness, I'll fix up their new home as you suggest with the gravel and higher planting. Thanks for the advice!

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  9. Your edited gardens look happier and it's obvious the gardener is happier with the changes. I love your stand of penstemon. I have a few growing here and there and they manage to bloom when deer don't find them. Love those dainty white flowers!

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    1. Joene, the deer have visited the garden where the penstemon grow and munched other things, but not the penstemons. Those have never been touched. So sad to hear yours get eaten.

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  10. Your choice is great. You have taken some very beautiful picture.
    Thank you for you nice photograph.

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