Friday, May 3, 2013

Penstemon barbatus

Penstemon barbatus syn Chelone barbata
Another peerless Penstemon , this one grows more as a wide spreading ground cover and can eventually reach over an area of several square metres. The tall stems of tubular bell shaped scarlet flowers occur both in spring and in autumn in large numbers though they have the unfortunate habit of flopping sideways particularly if there has been strong winds blowing. Even my container grown plants are lop sided and as I brush past them out comes a large contingent of bees which have been foraging amongst the flowers.
When not in flower the foliage makes an attractive mat of shiny grey green leaves as it spreads out from the central plant. As with any perennial ground cover, from time to time you have to get into the centre of the growth to remove a plant which has become un-thrifty or replace a patch which has stopped flowering. However this is a very hardy plant requiring no additional irrigation once established and is tolerant of both cold and heat making it suitable to grow over a range of climates.
It is native to the western regions of the United States. There is apparently a pale pink form of this Penstemon species but I have yet to come across it.

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