Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Baptisias For Beauty

Photos of false indigos (Baptisia sp.) as seen in this blog wont be possible until May but what an easy perennial to enjoy out in the full sun garden.  We have many selections of false indigo and recent breeding has produced dozens of fun varieties and hybrids for the home gardener.  Above is Baptisia x variicolor 'Starlite' Prairieblues which is my current favorite.  However, I've not seen a variety that I don't like and am impressed with all of our specimens at RBG.  I'll talk more about this long-lived and easy to grow perennial further below in the blog.

I'm embarrassed to type that I was only in the gardens for 15 minutes today on such a favorable day for weather!  I had a multitude of tasks and meetings and did a presentation on our 25th Anniversary for the Blackhawk Golden Kiwanis Club this morning.  Our grounds staff and volunteers had a productive day though and I was impressed (as always) by the amount of work that is collectively accomplished.  Pat worked on some indoor projects (painting, carpentry, lights processing, etc.) then headed out for leaf clean-up.  Cindy continued her tidying onslaught in the gazebo garden which is looking awesome.  Cheryl continued her work in the color rooms garden and Scottish garden and that space is looking 100% better after the recent attention.  Jenny worked closer to the fishing pier with similar clean-up goals and was aided by Kathy P., a new volunteer, this morning.   Kathy also worked with Cheryl and despite her exposure to both Jenny and Cheryl in the same day, will probably be coming back.  Big John and Terry worked on composting, rototilling and continued to prepare our containers for future planting.  They're hauling out our soil mix to our 70+ containers so we're ready to go as it continues to warm up.  Janice was in to work with the Chestnut House volunteers on planting our castor bean (Ricinis communis) seeds for early starting.  The gang did a great job.  Kay and Eva came in for garden clean-up this morning and haven't lost a step at all.  They came back with plenty of debris as did Bob C. who came in to help out as well.  Stan was in for Japanese garden pruning and Nancy N., Gena and Myrt continued with our painting efforts at the Horticulture Center.  We also saw Maury, Vern, Mark S. and many others today.

Above is a close up of 'Starlite' Prarieblues which is a variety developed by Dr. Jim Ault at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  Dr. Ault has done an amazing job on these hybrids and is also known for his work with coneflowers (Echincea).  Significant Baptisia breeding efforts are also occurring at Walters Gardens by Hans Hansen who is an amazing breeder.  This blog (and my knowledge) is not sufficient to describe all the hybridization of this native plant and all the species and varieties that are involved in these exciting, hybrid offerings.  However, it's important to note that false indigos prefer well-drained soil in full sun and while not fast growing, do ultimately mature to a good size and should be given the space to grow and fill in to that mature size.  They are notoriously hard to relocate so find a permanent spot and try some of these out.  Once their blooms are done after about three weeks, the stems continue to be ornamental and ultimately the seed pods have some ornamentation as well.  Do more research on specific varieties and try to catch them at peak bloom at your local botanical garden as these stalwart perennials pack a lot of punch (and beauty of course!)!  Specimens in this blog are identified mostly by variety as the parentage is daunting to relate on some of these.  Patronize your local garden centers for these treasures.
even the stems are ornamental!
'Midnite' Prairieblues
'Purple Smoke'

'Purple Smoke'
'Purple Smoke'
'Caspian Blues'

'Twilite' Prairieblues
Baptisia sphaerocarpa
'Screamin' Yellow'
'Solar Flare' Prairieblues
'Carolina Moonlight'
'Chocolate Chip'
Baptisia pendula 'Alba'

'Wayne's World'
Baptisia australis (the old standard and still top notch)

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