Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Dig that Digiplexis!

What do you get when you cross a fox with a canary? It's of course a trick question. In this case, the 'fox' is a foxglove (Digitalis) and the canary is Isoplexis, found in the Canary Islands. Ahh, those in the know will say, you're talking about that award-winning cross of the two plants - Digiplexis. Indeed I am. It created a minor sensation when it was introduced in 2012 and it made its American debut in 2013. Last year was its coming out party and the first entry, Digiplexis Illumination Flame, was so popular that new varieties have appeared. That would be Illumination Raspberry and Berry Canary, with rumors of  others on the way. Here are three things to know about this showy perennial.
First, unlike foxglove, it's a sun lover. That's great news for many gardeners who have more sun than shade in their gardens. Secondly, because the flowers are infertile each one stays open for a much longer time than those of foxgloves. And the bloom season is much longer, typically 4 months as opposed to two months for foxgloves (though deadheading foxgloves prolongs this a bit). Thirdly, Digiplexis varieties are heavy feeders and need regular water. This later point sometimes gives customers pause at our nursery but it's better to know going in that these plants will never be drought tolerant. Still, I feel their beauty is enough to make me bend my preference for low water denizens in my garden.
Okay, now the photos.

Digiplexis Illumination Flame. The original and to many still the champ. Mine has just now begun to flower for the year. These plants respond to warm weather, another difference from their Foxglove cousin.

Speaking of vibrant colors, there's no shortage of that with Helenium 'Mardi Gras.' I've had this specimen for six years now, so it's proven that it's ready for the long haul. It's a well known bee magnet and on sunny days the bees are all over the flowers.

Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee.' The soft and fuzzy purple flowers are just now beginning to emerge on this standout hummingbird mint.

Proof that milkweeds (Asclepias) will self seed with regularity is evidenced here, with a seed having taken root in my Pavonia pot. They look good together so I've left them to cohabit. My Pavonia missionum has finally hit its stride in year three and benefited I think from a vigorous pruning last winter.

Calluna 'Firefly.' Now if I had four heath plants in my garden, could I call them Heathers? Okay, that's an oblique movie reference but this Calluna is indeed in the heather family. Its new growth has turned a fiery red, with flowers soon to follow.

My Pineapple lily (Eucomis) is proceeding very nicely. Like many plants with flowering stalks, it's the lower flowers that open first, gradually moving up the stalk.

Epilobium canum. My CA fuchsia has begun to bloom, reaching through the cast iron railing to grab more of the east-facing sun. Though this plant is very drought tolerant, a bit of regular water will make it bloom more profusely.

Ageratum houstonianum. Unlike the little bedding Ageratums, this species one will get two feet tall and produce masses of those foamy lavender flowers. A favorite of butterflies.

Plumbago auriculata. There's nothing quite like the big clusters of robins-egg blue flowers of this shrub plumbago. Tougher than nails and so drought tolerant that cities plant them along roadsides, it will survive and even prosper under difficult conditions.

So many Plectranthus, so little space. Here's a P. coleoides variegata. It's happy as a clam in a bed it shares with lilies and a Passiflora citrina. That's proof that this genus can take some sun.

In the foreground is a Crassula arborescens that's sent up some bloom spikes. The tubular flared flowers are a bit larger than many other succulents that produce clusters of these tubular blooms.

I'm posting a photo of my Lonicera japonica (honeysuckle) to demonstrate that one can prune a vine so that it takes the form of a shrub. As you can see, it's filled in densely and I'm about to get loads of fragrant yellow and white flowers.

Foliage can be just as intriguing as flowers of course and here this Amorphophallus kiusianus is about to unfurl a leaf cluster. I just like the look of it, seeming here almost like a leafy vegetable.

Ampelopsis. My variegated Porcelain Berry vine has gone to town this year in the blooming dept. That's going to mean a parade of bees as they really love the tiny white flowers. Of course the real show will be the late summer/fall berries. Though it's getting no afternoon sun, it's somehow overcome that deficiency to thrive along my back yard fence.

I thought the way the foliage on my Acer 'Beni Maiko' was back lit by the morning sun looked pretty so here it is. This variety of Japanese maple is interesting. The new growth is a vivid red, that's followed by the splattered red and green you see here. The leaves will age to a darker green then put out that blazing red color in late fall that is characteristic of so many maples.

Finally, a new shot of my Impatiens congolense. This species has been renamed I. niamniamensis but I like the old name. Especially since the plant's common name is Congo Cockatoo. In any case, it produces these curious waxy red and yellow flowers during the summer and fall, much to the delight of those who grow it.

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