Where Have You Gone Husker Red?Friday, May 09, 2014
|Rosa 'James Mason' , May 9, 2014|
Some years back the perennial plant associations in North America would parade the plant of the year. My own American Hosta Society would pick the Hosta of the Year. As far as I know things have not changed.
I remember that in 1996 the plant of the year was Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’. Since then I have not noticed one in either our garden or in the occasional garden I visit.
This mentality of bringing something exciting and new to the plant world every year is paralleled by the camera companies vying for attention by bending over backwards to launch the camera that will make their competitors’ obsolete. My cutting edge Fuji X-E1 of last year was quickly replaced (new & improved, 50% more, etc!) by the X-E2.
Since we started gardening in our Kerrisdale home many plants and trees have died because of old age, or our ignorance. They didn’t get enough shade or got too much sun or suffered in a drought. With our city’s decision to ban all kinds of insecticidal spraying many (two in our garden) cherry trees have succumbed to the Cherry Bark Tortrix or the Winter Moth. Some trees, the cherry trees and the birches simply should have never been planted because of our wet conditions.
Our expert gardener friend Alleyne Cooke
defines plants in two categories. One is “a fine garden plant.” Those that are
not are simply “the rest.”
Still Cooke believes, as most gardeners do, in hope. There are some magnolias and rhododendrons that take years before they bloom. You plant these anyway because we must all live with hope.
I planted a Magnolia grandiflora (sometimes called a Southern Magnolia as it flowers in the south of the United States) 12 years ago in my front garden. It has yet to flower. Our neighbours across the lane, the Stewarts had not had apples from their trees ever. Fifteen years ago when they were about to move (they were too old to take care of their house on their own they were told by their real-estate agent daughter) the trees had fruit. Mrs. Stewart gave us a baked apple pie as a parting gift.
I have a few other recalcitrant plants in our garden and like players of a losing baseball team I always tell myself, “perhaps next year.”
So, in a 28 year old garden with two surviving gardeners, Rosemary and me, the plants that remain are good garden plants. Some are fancy and some are ordinary. But they have proved their worth by their longevity.
They, the plants and trees, share with me (I like to think of it this way) knowledge of where I buried six cats that died in our home through the years. I have never told Rosemary these locations. The sorriest burial was of our white female cat that was eviscerated by a raccoon. Fortunately Rosemary never saw the poor thing dead and bloody as I did.
I have been scanning my plants now for at least 10 years. I started with roses and I have from there transferred my interest to just about every plant that can be scanned. I believe that the giclées made by my friend Grant Simmons are the most beautiful plant reproductions I have seen anywhere and at last count I have only sold one to my lawyer friend Christopher Dafoe. The few that appreciate these plant scans ask me for my secret. I tell them all about the mechanics but I also tell them that I communicate (talk) with my roses and I know when to bring them inside for the scan. I think I almost believe myself. I have seen other plant scans and they seem to be like portraits of people where the photographer never connected with subject.
My plant scans will see the light of day in
some other time. I might not be around when that happens. What is interesting
and poignant is that my scan of Rosa ‘Reine Victoria’ and of many (many) others will be
of roses that will be impossible to find. With the garden industry plummeting,
nurseries can no longer bring in exotic roses and, of course, that plant of the
year, 1996 Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’.
|Rosa 'Reine Victoria'|