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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in Penstemon Dark Towers (2)


More on Penstemon, an Unusual Perennial


Yesterday I posted a blog about Penstemon Dark Towers. I had wanted to include images of the plant as it actually appears in my garden. I felt that it was an important perennial and that readers should see it in a real setting. Comments from several readers confirmed that conviction. Some found it hard to visualize such a plant growing in their own gardens.

Although I already had photos of this plant that were shot in my test garden, I was unable to share them. I had just downloaded Picasa and was struggling to decipher how to get my images from that program into my blog. Since I had not blogged in a while, I felt it more important to post in order to stay in touch with readers rather than delay by struggling with software. In the end, I used a very good quality trade publicity image to illustrate the plant.

Tonight, I was successful in figuring out how to maneuver around Picasa and I am pleased to share my photos. This is my first attempt at illustrating my blog with images that I shot myself, on my very own newly acquired camera, uploaded to my computer, edited in Picasa and posted to my blog. For a technology-impaired blogger, this is a major achievement that only other similar techno- klutzes will understand.

The top image shows how I integrated Dark Towers in a composition of pink perennials. Integrated might not be the best word because this perennial stands out boldly. However, in this test-garden planting, the presence of the surrounding pink flowers partially mellows the drama created when burgundy and pink combine on one plant. Notice  how the wine and peach Heuchera in the lower right corner also help to anchor Dark Towers. The bottom image is a close up, taken in my garden, which confirms the amazing variegation of the light and dark pink flower petals.


Penstemon Dark Towers, an Unusual Perennial

I live in a Penstemon-deprived part of North America. The only variety that is stocked here is Husker Red. That plant is not suitable for my needs because its flower does not project sufficiently to warrant including it in a garden composition. Last season, one of my suppliers listed a new Penstemon in their catalogue. Named Dark Towers, the specs for the plant indicated a perennial that was more colorful, taller, and longer blooming than Husker Red. I ordered one for my test garden and was pleased with its performance. What I liked about it, especially, was its neat demeanor. It was tall and graceful and, even when the stalks slightly opened their formation in order to worship the sun, the plant maintained its dignity.

Two characteristics that make this plant interesting are the unusual combination of burgundy foliage with pink flowers and the variegation of the flower petals from light pink at the tips to dark pink at the base. The overall impression is understated eye-catching. When this plant is properly combined with other pink-blooming perennials, the effect can be striking.

Dark Tower grows to 3 feet in sun, in any well drained soil, and is hardy from Zone 3 to 8.This rich burgundy-leafed plant produces spikes that carry two-toned bell-shaped pink flowers that bloom June, July and August and it is tolerant of heat, drought and humidity. It makes a great cut flower, attracts butterflies and is deer resistant. The foliage maintains its burgundy color all season and that color will add an interesting character to most garden compositions. This plant may appear mundane when on display at a nursery, and even during its first season of growth. However, by year two, it is transformed in to a majestic plant with a commanding presence.