There is no quicker way to go broke in the nursery business than to grow only your favorite plants, that is unless you are much better at persuading people than I am. On second thought, one needs to establish credibility before attempting to persuade people of anything. Maybe I should not begin all of my missives with the admission that I am always attempting to unload something upon the unsuspecting public. On third thought, at least I will get a reputation for honesty.
The purpose of all this introduction business was to offer some Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’. In our planning meetings this past winter we all decided to drop a lot of the slow moving/low numbers plants from the catalog. The pruning of the selection will show up in the next catalog, the 2021 one. I voted to drop Persicaria ‘Firetail’ and P. polymorpha and then I realized that I had a bunch of liners of both at the old original farm and that I could sneak some new production past the formal chain of command. And then I decided to educate myself on the latest landscape design fads, hence the purchasing of the 2013 book by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury entitled “Planting, A New Perspective” and besides it was full of pretty pictures.
What I saw was nothing at all like the “New American Garden” of Oemhe van Sweden. The Oudolf and Kingsbury book had all kinds of gaudy plants all carefully designed to look like they were just randomly thrown out there in the field. The buzz word appears to be “matrix planting”. P. ‘Firetail’ appeared in many of the illustrative photos and so, newly inspired, here I am going to describe it. The foliage is coarse and uninspiring with thin scapes rising to three feet with narrow pipe-stem-like crimson red flowers that bloom for about three months in the fall right up past frost to snow. These are not accent plants, they are for massing, and preferably massing behind something that hides the foliage from the line of sight but is not so tall as to block the blooms, which are a very distinctive, almost fire-engine red, and dramatic addition to any garden.
I am not sure that this trying to sell a late-summer blooming plant with ugly foliage just because it appears all of the time in a book on the latest garden design theory of matrix planting is a recipe for success. Next year you may notice me trying to unload this upon the unsuspecting customer. Likewise, Persicaria polymorpha is another idiosyncratic plant. It gets tall, almost six feet and wide, and has big astilbe-like white blooms. People who have to have it just got to have it and the rest do not want it at all. We have some, for the brave or the foolish. Wolfgang Oehme told me that this was a fine plant and going to make me rich. I should have been suspicious after he told me that Silphium perfoliatum was, likewise, going to make me rich, slow learner I guess, but an optimist one. On a good day this Cup Plant will reach twelve feet high, lending credence to the old saw about there being a place for everything.
These plants are easy to propagate and so we can custom grow them if given some lead time, which reminds me that we prefer to custom grow and the reason is because the risk is only in the customer not paying us but not in them not taking delivery. In fact the taking delivery of the plant material is necessary to precede the stiffing of us. I am not saying that we like it; I am saying that it has happened once or twice so we are already used to the feeling.
Speaking of plants that we are dropping because they do not sell and that we would love to custom grow and that are really good plants, we have Stachys o. ‘Pink Cotton Candy’ PP#21,436 and Penstemon d. ‘Pocahontas’ PP#24,804. The Stachys is useful if you ever are in need of something shocking pink. It will draw the eye. The Penstemon is a great improvement over ‘Husker Red’ and it still does not sell much.
This year we are looking at some 4 ½ million Pachysandra ‘Green Carpet’ that were stuck last summer and we are going to start sticking again come June 1. We do not need to exaggerate in order to sell pachysandra or vinca, we just need to make sure that we have plenty on hand. This looks like a good year. Keep working out there.