H. Perennial & Old Fashioned Garden Plants & Flowers by John Wood
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Pentstemons - Hardy Perennial
Author: John Wood
Pentstemons - Nat. Ord. Scrophulariaceæ.
The hybrids, which constitute the numerous and beautiful class commonly grown as "florists' flowers," are the kinds now under notice. The plant, when a year old, has a half-shrubby appearance, and if I said that it was but half hardy I should probably be nearer the mark than if I pronounced it quite hardy. It may, therefore, appear odd that I should class it with hardy perennials; there are, however, good reasons for doing so, and as these extra fine border plants are great favourites and deserve all the care that flowers can be worth, I will indicate my mode of growing them; but first I will state why the hybrid Pentstemons are here classed as hardy. One reason is that some varieties really are so, but most are not, and more especially has that proved to be the case during recent severe winters—the old plants, which I never trouble to take in, are mostly killed. Another reason why I do not object to their being classed as hardy is that cuttings or shoots from the roots appear to winter outside, if taken in the summer or autumn and dibbled into sand or a raised bed (so that it be somewhat drier than beds of the ordinary level), where they will readily root. Such a bed of cuttings I have found to keep green all the winter, without any protection other than a little dry bracken. My plants are so propagated and wintered.
The Pentstemon has of late years been much improved by hybridising, so that now the flowers, which resemble foxgloves, are not only larger than those of the typical forms, but also brighter, and few subjects in our gardens can vie with them for effectiveness; moreover, they are produced for several months together on the same plants, and always have a remarkably fresh appearance.
The corolla, which can be well seen both inside and out, has the pleasing feature of clearly pronounced colour on the outside, and rich and harmonious shadings inside; such flowers, loosely arranged on stems about 2ft. high, more or less branched, and furnished with lance-shaped foliage of a bright glossy green, go to make this border plant one that is justly esteemed, and which certainly deserves the little extra care needful during winter.
It is grandly effective in rows, but if in a fully exposed position it flags during hot sunshine; it is, therefore, a suitable plant to put among shrubs, the cool shelter of which it seems to enjoy. The remarks I have already made respecting its hardiness sufficiently indicate the mode of propagation. Old plants should not be depended upon, for though they are thoroughly perennial, they are not so hardy as the younger and less woody stuff—besides, young plants are far more vigorous bloomers.
Flowering period, June to August.
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