Just as the daytime temperatures begin to rise, it is not unusual for gardeners to come out of the winter weather cocoon and make a drastic change in their daily routines. Garden work becomes one of the top priorities, to the point that some other commitments are, at times, put on hold. For me, the arrival of spring means being in the garden first thing in the morning and, to treat the “spring fever,” making a trip to Boulevard Flower Gardens, our local garden center in Colonial Heights, where I get to see Kathy Griffin, the assistant general manager of the store. Over the years, Kathy has become a problem solver, as well as a resource for current information.
My latest visit, however, had a definite purpose: To check out the 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year. So, not only did Kathy show me very healthy potted specimens, she gave me a fact sheet about the features the plant possesses. Needless to say, I purchased a plant right away and have since found a nice location in the garden where it has settled down and put forth several flower spikes.
By an interesting coincidence, this years’ award winner is a plant I had fancied several seasons back but, for one reason or the other, didn’t get a chance to get. A member of the legume family, this eastern United States native goes by the name Baptisia australis, and is commonly called the blue false indigo or the wild indigo because of the indigo-blue color of the flowers.
These plants prefer well-drained soil and can grow up to 4 feet tall with a similar spread, thus they are ideal for the back of a border, adapting easily to the location where they are grown. While the lupine-like flowers last for about a month or so, the seed pods that follow the spent blooms can be left on the plants for winter interest or used in dried arrangements.
Baptisias are low-maintenance perennials, but they do need to be grown in full sun; otherwise, although the plants will survive, they tend to flop and therefore require staking. Once established, they can live for a long time. In addition, they are tolerant of droughts and resistant to insects or diseases; even deer don’t particularly care for them.
Loaded with such attributes, it is no surprise that Baptisia australis was chosen as the 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year!
Gita’s Tip of the Month: Yard work getting a bit overwhelming? Try tackling a small project to start the day; the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing a project can often become the driving force to handle more demanding tasks.