Penstemon for Hummingbirds!

The weekend was quite mild.  Today continued that trend with sunshine quickly melting off the ice that formed overnight.  We had a great turnout of volunteers this morning.  With Larry and Big John continuing to lead the troops with taking down the Holiday Light Show (HLS), we also had Bob C., Alan and Peg arrive to assist.  Dr. Gredler was in for more painting and Ron P. continued to work on lights repair for the HLS.  Dave and Jim had some carpentry projects and were assisted by Dick H.  Gene continued with work on our benches that are being re-sanded and re-sealed.  We also saw Larry O., Gary, Chuck S. (recycling) and Lloyd.  I continue to juggle seed orders, presentation preparations and general spring planning.  The Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo ( is coming up in two weeks (February 12-14) and RBG will have a booth at the trade show.  I think we’ve been going to this expo for the past 20 years.  I’ll also be doing some presentations (Herbs, Annuals and Perennials) and we’ll do our best to expose the gardens to the 20,000 folks that attend.  If you want to skip the long ticket line at the expo (Alliant Energy Center – Exhibition Hall), come to our Cottage Garden Gallery and get your Expo tickets in advance!

I’ve included some fun Penstemon selections in this blog.  Known as beardtongue, this Western U.S. native is heat and sun tolerant and quite adaptable in our climate as well.  There are MANY species and varieties of Penstemon and this blog does not do the genus justice.  There are perennial beardtongues available in our area but I should point out that all of these featured in the blog would be very touchy (non-hardy) in our area and should be considered annuals.  They will bloom the first year from seed started early (or can be purchased as plants) and to me, these annual selections (like ‘Phoenix Pink’ above) are worth the space because of long summer blooming on these dense flower spikes.  Heights will vary depending on the species and parentage but most are in the 15″-24″ range.  We have grown many annual beardtongues out in the gardens and have positioned them in well-drained soil (essential) and do provide some supplemental fertilizer throughout the summer.  Many of the varieties shown here are offered as plants (vegetatively propagated) and are ready to insert in to beds and containers.  With our Hummingbird Haven theme this year in the Nancy Yahr Memorial Children’s Garden, “annual” Penstemon selections like those you see here will be evident in profusion!

 Penstemon ‘Phoenix Red’
 Penstemon ‘Phoenix Violet’
 Penstemon ‘Rose Quartz’ (above and below)


 Penstemon ‘Cha Cha Lavender’
 Penstemon ‘Cha Cha Cherry’
 Penstemon ‘Cha Cha Pink’
 Penstemon ‘Tubular Bells Red’
 Penstemon ‘Tubular Bells Wine Red’
Penstemon ‘Carillo Rose’