Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Problem with my Penstemon

I planted a penstemon this past spring.  It was the first penstemon I had ever planted in my garden.  And I kept looking at it, and looking at it, and looking at it.  Something was wrong.

Yes, yes, it's pretty enough.  And the butterflies love it.


Oh, how the butterflies love it!

But, there was a problem.  Each time I would pass by, it would catch my eye.  And I knew something was wrong.  Was it the penstemon?  Or was it me?

What was the problem with my penstemon?

Penstemon 'Elfin Pink'
Finally, it dawned on me.  The problem with my penstemon is that it is one penstemon, not a lot of penstemons.  This little penstemon is pretty enough, but it doesn't make an impact.  I tried to get by with less.  I tried to save some money.  I skimped.  And it shows.  It just looks skimpy!  One is definitely not enough.

I had been wondering if I should just dig up this penstemon, but actually, what I need to do is the exact opposite.  I need to plant more.

What was I thinking?  One of the first rules of garden design (for non-accent plantings) is to plant in masses, or drifts.  I have just proved to myself why that's important.  Usually, the larger the bed, the larger the grouping should be, and the smaller the plant, more are required to make a visual impact.  This area will look wonderful with another five or six penstemons.  That will make a nice grouping.  And the butterflies will appreciate having more of them, too.


Then there won't be a problem with my penstemon anymore.

38 comments:

  1. Looking forward to seeing how they pan out on mass!

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    1. I think a mass of them would look very pretty. The sun hits them just perfectly in the mornings to make them glow.

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  2. A good garden design rule, or perhaps you could scatter in different spots a few more of the same plant around to create balance.

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    1. That's a good idea. Where it is planted has plenty of room for more of them, though, so I think putting several together would be easier in this particular area.

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  3. Mass some more of that penstemon over an area...go for it!

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    1. I think that's just what I'm going to do! :)

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  4. Replies
    1. Yes, and one I need to remember! Sometimes it's so hard not to pick up just one plant here, and one plant there.

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  5. You know before you know it, it will increase in size to what you want. The question is "Can you wait?" :)

    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Can I wait? Hmmm.... I really do try to be patient, but I think I'd rather not! :)

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    2. I am guilty and I mean so guilty of wanting instant impact. I often end up moving things when they fill in too much !LOL However , I say GO !

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    3. I am guilty of the same thing! In fact, I have been thinning plants out in some of my garden areas. But for this spot, I think you're right - I really need those plants! :)

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  6. I love your pennstemon, small or not. I have a very limited budget for flowers, so it has to be small, or not at all, lol.

    It will grow, and then it will fill in.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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    1. Budgets are so hard to live by! And it seems that plants get more and more expensive. I find myself looking at prices a lot more than pretty plant pictures these days!

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  7. Replies
    1. I think a drift of five would be beautiful here. And it would be more beautiful as it filled in. I have a hard time buying 5 plants of the same, though. That's four other different types of plants I could be spending money on! :) But, in this case, I should have bought the entire drift of five!

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  8. what if you dug up the one plant and split it into three and planted back NOW - you are in Texas right? - so it can be making roots this fall and winter and be ready to start again in the late spring.... has it been in the ground three years? it takes most plants that long to settle in.....

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    1. It has only been in the ground since spring, so it's not quite big enough to divide. That would be the easy way to get a drift, if I was a lot more patient!

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  9. I've never been good about planting in drifts. When I plant in threes, one sometimes two doesn't overwinter. I love groups of penstemon. Your elfin pink looks a lot a little bit like an agastache.

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    1. Actually, I'm thinking I had a couple more of these that didn't make it, not sure though. And it would be a tragedy for sure if one was to plant in masses - then they didn't overwinter!

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  10. I'm sure you will work your magic with the mass plantings, Holley, and I can't wait to see it!

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    1. I think it will look a bit magical with the right number of plantings there. At least, the butterflies will probably think so!

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  11. That's true, in this case more is better. Can you divide that plant, so you get more?

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    1. It's still quite small, so I don't think it's quite ready to be divided, unfortunately. But, I look forward to being able to divide it in the future - and having free plants!

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  12. A perfect example of simple abundance.

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    1. Yes, abundance - I need to not forget to plant in abundance!

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  13. I love how the butterflies are attracted to your flowers. I am jealous of the attention your flowers get from the butterflies. I would give a chance to fill itself in. Spend the money you save on another plant!

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    1. I have been amazed at the number of Gulf Fritillary butterflies that are in my garden this year. They really are everywhere! I hope they continue to make my garden their home.

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  14. I've only been successful growing smooth penstemon (Penstemon digitalis). I've got plenty of it, in fact I just gave some away. All the other species I plant never make it through the winter. But your right, like most plants, they are far better in a mass.

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    1. What a tragedy that would be if I were to plant in masses, only to have them not make it through the winter! I will have to look into the smooth penstemons.

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  15. Yes you have to plant Penstemons in groups of at least 7 I think. But I have given up because they don't survive most winters. It's not only the frost, but frost together with wet soil is the problem.

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    1. I think around 7 would be just perfect - you're right. I hope mine last through our winters - it should, I think. Although, few years ago we had a bad freeze, and I gave up on a lot of plants that didn't make it through.

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  16. Ha, very true! Penstemons are so airy, too, so you need more of them to make an impact! I just bought some Penstemons this year, three of them. They have been fighting off the voles, though, so I haven't gotten many blooms. I have high hopes for them, though!

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    1. You're right - they are quite airy! That does make a difference. I hope your penstemons win the battle against the voles, and bloom beautifully for you.

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  17. I like to grow penstemon from seed -- easy to get lots that way!

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    1. What a great idea! I never thought of that - and what an easy way to get as many as I need!

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  18. Having a lot of such a pretty plant is just the ticket and why not...who wouldn't want more...I have doen the same thing only to add more and more of favs...

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    1. I love getting new plants to try, but I do rely on the tried and true a lot. It makes gardening a lot less stressful!

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