It was long ago that the Baptisia ssp. joined the Fairegarden, around 1992. (All of my gardens are named Fairegarden.) It was two moves ago, in our first Tennessee home in the far northeast corner of the state. Gardening had begun in earnest when our youngest child started first grade. Books and magazines were scoured for ideas to use on our one acre sloping property. The idea of an all white garden was very appealing after reading about Sissinghurst. Little did I dream that one day I would actually visit the white garden created by Vita Sackville-West. Click here-part one and here-part two to read that story. Back to the topic after a little stroll through the memory vault. Seed and plant catalogs were scanned for anything white or with silvery foliage. I really knew very little about gardening, what would grow where and such. One of the first perennials added to the newly created Herb Garden was Baptisia alba. Three plants were mail ordered from Holbrook Farms, #21940, 3 @ $19.26. (I keep plant lists from way back.) They were the highlight of the white spring garden, so unusual and beautiful with their blackish stems and pure white pea-like flowers. They were planted in a ring around the base of a young white double flowering crab apple tree that came with the property. This tree was included in the creation of the Herb Garden and it was the beginning of my pruning career. My husband what somewhat dismayed that I had cut nearly every branch so drastically, but I had a vision. The following spring it bloomed so beautifully and had a nice shape. He no longer questions my pruning, having given up on having a say in it, wisely.
Fast forward, such a quaint phrase, to the here and now. We are older and wiser, especially in the realm of gardening, but the Baptisias still hold our hearts. There is something about them, the blueish foliage, the upright stalks as they form buds and the blooms themselves. Even the seedpods are delightful, and we have successfully grown healthy plants from collected seeds here. Some of those turned out to be a mix of the solid blue and white forms growing near each other.
Recently, named varieties have been offered in the markets and I gave in to a few of those even though we already had plenty. Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’, a cross between B. sphaerocarpa x B.alba was the first named addition and it is a beauty.
A couple of years ago Baptisia ‘Twilight Prairieblues’ joined the ranks of the Fairelurie. This is the first year for blooms and it is a lovely thing. This hybrid resulted from a controlled F1 cross performed in 1998 in Glencoe, Illinois between blue-flowered Baptisia australis (female parent) and yellow-flowered Baptisia sphaerocarpa (male parent). I am not sure that amongst the pink muhly grass was the best place for it, but this is one plant that does not like to be moved, foiling my usual gardening technique. Last summer Baptisia ‘Solar Flare’ was planted on the Daylily Hill to give interest before the daylilies began blooming but after the daffodils were done. Again, probably not the best placement. Will I never learn? Probably not.
Some plant facts about Baptisia:
Common Name: false indigo
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Zone: 3 to 9
Native Range: Eastern United States
Height: 3 to 4 feet
Spread: 3 to 4 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Color: Blue, white and yellow
Bloom Description: Pea type flowers
Sun: Full sun to part shade, best in full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low, shearing after bloom to keep from flopping, but will lose seedpods
Flowers: Showy Flowers
Fruit: Showy Fruit, blackish seedpods rattle when dried
Wildlife: Attracts Butterflies,deer and rabbit resistant
Tolerates: Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Shallow, Rocky Soil, Drought
Uses: Erosion Control, Will Naturalize, extremely long lived once established
Long lived is right. After planting the seedling crosses, shown in the opening photo and above, in the newly created Yellow/White Bed, we were unhappy with the blobs of foliage they became after blooming was done. For all the room the Baptisias took up, I wanted more color for the summer and fall. The offer was made to my good friend Christopher of Outside Clyde that he could have them if he would dig them out. The story of his visit can be read by clicking here.
Dig them out he did, all of them, after first cutting back the foliage. Only a strong man’s muscles could have gotten those huge root balls out intact. Funny thing though, they have all grown back since then. The plants that replaced them have grown large enough to be able to fight for territory in this bed, so all is well. Baptisias have a will to live!