Fabulous Friday: Gifts from Friends

Obedient Plant, Physotegia virginiana

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In our neighborhood, we celebrate the plants the deer leave alone.  And many of us share with our neighborhood friends when we have the opportunity to dig and divide.  We are so happy to have found something beautiful that will grow un-grazed and un-molested, that we just naturally want to ‘spread the joy.’

I am very fortunate to have a Master Gardener friend who has been tending her acre for many years and has developed many garden rooms of trees, ferns, and perennials.  She gave me a tour of her beautiful garden a few years back, and will share a perennial with me from time to time.  Last spring, 2017, she offered me some divisions of a native commonly called ‘obedient plant.’

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You may know this beautiful perennial as Physotegia virginiana, or false dragonhead.  I think it looks a little like a summer foxglove or snapdragon, don’t you?  It comes in shades of pink, lavendar and white.  I was very happy to receive this special gift, and she brought enough that I could plant quite a few divisions and still share some further with friends.

I was determined to take care of these so they would survive last summer.  And even through the excessive heat and my extended absences from the garden, somehow they pulled through and even gave a few late summer blooms.  And when they reappeared this spring, and I recognized that my few plants had not only taken hold but spread, there was real cause to celebrate.

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Now, what you need to know, if you think you might want a little P. virginiana in your own garden, is that this perennial belongs to the mint family.  That’s a good thing if you want a plant that will quickly grow and fill in a large space.  That maybe isn’t such a good thing if your garden is already pretty full, and you don’t want your precious perennials crowded out by a newcomer.  In its first spring,  my new stand of obedient plant immediately required ‘the discipline of the spade.’  But no worries, that just gave me a few more clumps to share, right?

This plant quickly forms clumps as its rhizomes spread around.  The plants grow fairly tall, in sun or part sun, and can manage with average soil.  They are considered drought tolerant and are much loved by hummingbirds and other pollinators.  They make lovely cut flowers, and help the garden gracefully bridge the transition to fall.

I planted them in several spots to see what they would prefer, and most of those initial clumps are either in bud or bloom.  I am enjoying these elegant flowers as they bloom this year.  They continually remind me how the kindness of others enriches our lives so much.

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Some gardeners recommend planting obedient plant in a large, bottomless pot sunk into the garden to contain the rhizomes.  This advice is often given for members of the mint family, and it may work for you.

I’m a bit more laissez-faire with our Forest Garden, and still feel very grateful to those plants who can make it through the season with their leaves, stems, and roots still intact.  What the deer don’t get around here, the voles often claim.  Please just keep in mind that the moniker ‘obedient’ refers to the flowers, who will hold a curve if you try to shape their stem, but not the roots and rhizomes of this vigorous plant.

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We have enjoyed abundant rain and a short spell of cooler weather this week.  We’ve had some cool, crisp mornings to remind us that September is a breath away.  I’m always a little surprised to feel how much energy we have when the humidity and temps drop towards the end of summer!

We have used these cool mornings in the garden, and have actually done some productive tasks when not chasing butterflies!

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The change of seasons always brings a bit of excitement and fresh energy.  The colors in the garden shift as new perennials come into bloom and some of the trees are beginning to blush with the first hints of fall color.

Our garden turns purple and gold as autumn approaches, and white with clumps of chives popping up in unexpected places.  Even as we prepare to welcome our long Virginia autumn, I’m already ordering bulbs to plant this fall and thinking ahead to spring.  And yes, finding spare clumps of perennials to share with our neighbors and friends.

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious;
Let’s infect one another!

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Monarch on Zinnia at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden

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“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge

to test our courage and willingness to change;

at such a moment, there is no point in pretending

that nothing has happened

or in saying that we are not yet ready.

The challenge will not wait.

Life does not look back.

A week is more than enough time

for us to decide whether or not

to accept our destiny.”
.

Paulo Coelho

 

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

8 responses to “Fabulous Friday: Gifts from Friends

  1. A good plant for a wild garden, but not so welcome in the flower bed!
    Is there a rudbeckia that is deer resistant? A friend wants some, but here they nibble R. fulgida and Echinacea, too.

    • It is all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? Our garden is overflowing with Rudbeckia hirta, which spreads through seed, blooms itself silly for many weeks, and mostly isn’t touched by deer. I’ve had just a couple of plants grazed over the years, but they recover. It is a mystery- why graze one and leave the other dozens? I’ve never had grazing on the cutleaf coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata. They grow quite large, rather thuggish, but I’m trying to make a truce with them so as to keep the tremendous showy bloom this time of year. Both of these grow happily in areas where deer roam free, as well as in our garden.

  2. Goodness! I did not know that anyone grew obedient plant anymore! I met it for the first time while in school in about 1985. Even back then, it grew only where it has lived for years around old Victorian homes. It was most commonly white. I still think that it excels at white. Pink was nice too. I only read about it in lavender. I saw obedient plant only once after coming back to Los Gatos, but have not seen again since then, back in the early 1990s. I like it so much that I intend to eventually get a piece of it and keep it going for all eternity, like my old zonal geraniums.

    • It is a beautiful plant and I wonder why it isn’t more common. It seems that native plants in general are enjoying more popularity, and there are several cultivars out now which may make it more marketable. This is the first time I’ve grown it and I’m really impressed with it thus far. Would you call ours pink or lavender? Tony, you are more familiar with CA’s laws vis a vis plant imports- would it be legal for me to mail a bit of this to you next spring?

      • The one in the picture does not look like the simple pink that I remember, so I would say that it looks (relatively) to be lavender.
        Technically, it is not legal to send plant parts here, but there is no way to enforce it. It sort of angers me that so many ‘bad’ plants, along with their diseases (and even mosquitoes!) from other regions, but that is another issue. Besides, I may not be able to tend to in by next spring anyway. Thank you for the offer. I do intend to get some white obedient plant eventually, just because I really like it.

        • I’ve seen the white obedient plant listed by a number of nurseries, so I’m sure you’ll find it, Tony. I think you’re right that ours is lavender. It is such a beautiful color, I’m glad this is the one we were given. I’ve not seen the pink growing, but have admired the white.
          I was visiting a greenhouse yesterday that sells a lot of tropical house plants. There, on the walk about 15 feet away was a little lizard that looked like something out of Jurassic Park. Definitely not one of ours! It had a red protrusion on its neck that it could inflate with air to draw attention to itself. It watched us for a while, then skittered off to hide as we advanced. The shop owners told us that these tropical lizards come on the trucks from FL in the pots…. Yes, a lot of interesting things hitchhike when plants are shared from one area to another! Good luck finding your obedient plant, Tony.

          • Thank you. I will probably purchase white obedient plant inexpensively from a small retail nursery in Aptos, but would really prefer to find it growing at a historic old home somewhere. I prefer the plants in my garden to come with some sort of interesting history.

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