Friday, March 14, 2014

Poor Parry’s penstemon

In an effort to “desertify” our yard, I’ve been planting more Southwest natives. One of them is Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi). It hails from southern Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora where it grows along washes and in canyons. It’s a popular landscaping plant in Arizona but, for some unfathomable reason, quite difficult to find here in Northern California. Here you have an easy-to-grow plant that’s drop-dead gorgeous when in bloom, you’d think California nurseries would be eager to sell it—especially as we’re being told by the powers that be to abandon our lawns and switch to drought-tolerant plants.

Unfortunately, availability remains problematic in our neck of the woods. I bought my specimen at a UC Davis Arboretum plant sale; the plant list for their upcoming sale tomorrow (Saturday, March 15) shows that they still carry it and I will pick one another one.

However, there is one problem with Penstemon parryi. It became very obvious this week when we had two solid days of high winds.

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LEFT: Upright flower stalks 10 days ago as the flowers were just beginning to open
RIGHT: Flattened stalks after high winds

The flowers are borne on slender 2-3 ft. stalks that emerge from the 6-8 in. rosette of gray-green leaves. Before the winds, the flower stalks were standing tall and proud. After the wind, not so much—now they are extending out horizontally, almost lying flat against the driveway.

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This doesn’t distract from the cheery beauty of the flowers but I’d still rather have the upright stalks back.

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My hope is that as the clump matures and produces more flower stalks, they will hold each other up so they don’t flop over as much. I will report back next year!

8 comments:

  1. As usual, I enjoy the post! I have a tall grevallia that tended to fall over. I put a long stick to support it and it's been ok and grew stronger. Maybe you can put a tomato cage type to hold it up?

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    1. Anna, I agree, I need to stake it. I hate the look of stakes but I need to get over that :-).

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  2. Aw poor thing! Can't take a breeze. It will get stronger under your care I am sure!

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    1. It wasn't just a breeze, it was winds strong enough to break limbs off trees.

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  3. I wonder if this is a plant that expects to be supported by other plants in the wild? Or perhaps it grows in masses, where the floppy behavior doesn't matter? I also hate visible stakes, but you might not have a choice here.

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    1. Yes, I assume as the clump gets bigger and send up more flower stalks they will begin to support each other. But it's hard to withstand 30-40 mph gusts like the ones we had last week.

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  4. All a bit of a mystery why it's not that readily available there isn't it?

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    1. It's because in the U.S. the nursery industry as a whole is reactive instead of forward-looking.

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