May 2012 – Penstemons

Roger Skipper is not only a penstemon but also the name of our last speaker who bred his very own flower – recognised firstly in America and then in the UK by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Roger described this lovely bell-like flower with many photographs of countless varieties grown in his own garden which he often opens to the public. Try growing the red Penstemon Southgate gem, P. Garnet or P. Firebird – all are hardy, bushy plants which will produce many flowers towards the end of summer until the first frosts. Also good ‘doers’ but not quite so hardy are Penstemon Blackbird (deep purple), P. Raven (purplish), P. Osprey – white and pink and
P. Flamingo (bright orange-pink). Use penstemons to fill the gaps in the summer border as they come into their own in early autumn. They like sunny positions and will tolerate dry conditions once established so only plant them in the spring not when they are looking their best in the garden centre in late August and September! The darker forms look good when weaving through softly flowing grasses such as Stipa tenuissima.

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