Friday, December 26, 2008

A Love that Began in an Alley, Part 1

About 10 years ago, my husband's sister and her family moved into a house with a huge yard I was envious of.  In the spring, I went exploring through a gate to the alley, to see what the neighbors were growing.  There, right in the alley, was a splendid 3 to 4 foot tall, and almost as wide, plant covered with small flowers that were star shaped and a beautiful light sky blue!  It was love at first sight.  I had no idea what it was, but I started my hunt.  I don't remember how long it took, but some people who were having a plant sale had one in their yard.  They did not have one for sale, but were able to tell me it was an amsonia.  They said I could get one from Blue Bird Nursery in Clarkson, NE, which is a couple hours from here.  They also bring plants to Lincoln for our "Spring Affair" which is an awesome plant sale at our fairgrounds.

I was pleased to find my first amsonia at a local nursery that sells native plants.  We made the drive to Clarkson, when I realized this was a little different from the one I saw in the alley. Since then, I have found other kinds at the Spring Affair and from our Nebraska State Arboretum, where they sell "Great Plants for the Great Plains".  This summer, I even found one at a mainstream nursery on the 75% off rack!  But, I digress, this one will be featured in a different post, since I seem to like to go into detail and put lots of pics up.

The first amsonia I am featuring is not the first kind I got, which is a bit spready.  This one, I'm pretty sure is Amsonia tabernaemontana.  Actually the first one I got was called that, too, but as I said, it is not the same thing.

In late April, there were woody stems, but no green yet on this plant.  This photo was taken May 6.  The amsonia is on the left. In the back, is a false baptisia, and to the right is a day lily. Click on any of the pics if you want to see them larger.

The amsonia grew noticeably, as this pic from May 12 shows.

May 19:

It was blooming here on June 3.  The flowers are much prettier in person.

This is from June 8, showing the plant grows while it's blooming:

There weren't as many blooms by June 18, but the baptisia behind is putting on quite a show. We had looked into replacing the red shed, but, as I've mentioned, the city didn't allow it because it would not be even with the neighbors' house.  It is now repaired and green. The dog kennel is no longer in the back yard, either.

On June 22, there were a few blooms and the long slender seed pods were forming.

This photo is from July 6th, and I had just cut the plant back so the baptisia could be seen and the plant wouldn't spread over the other nearby plants as much.  I don't think you are supposed to cut it back this far, but there is one at our farmers' market that gets cut to the ground each year, so I decided to experiment.

August 6th, the baptisa was making seed pods, and the amsonia had formed a nice mound.

Here's a wider view, taken August 31, with our amsonia and baptisia on the right of the photo. A relative, one that will be featured later, is the plant turning gold already, in front of the black eyed Susans under the garden window.

September 7, I'm not sure how long the false sunflowers had been blooming.  The butterflies sure liked them.  The amsonia still grew wider than I wanted it to.  I think I may try dividing it in the spring.  I did cut it back at the edges.

September 25, you can see the mountain mint on the right.  The verbena "on a stick" is providing color.

November 5, after we had had a freeze, amsonia on the left, baptisia on the right:

December 7:

Today, December 26, I'm still in love:

I hope you are having a great holiday season.


  1. I just love this post. Your flower garden is lovely and makes me yearn for Spring! I've never tried growing Amsonia but it is lovely and I enjoyed seeing it throughout the summer in your photos. I have good success with Baptisia here and it is quite showy. We actually have some jonquils trying to spring up it has been so warm lately! near 70 degrees!

  2. Very interesting to go through the season with your Amsonia. There seems to be some variation in the plants sold under that name. I think the species get mixed up sometimes.

    I can really identify with your story.

  3. Your garden is lovely and I enjoyed the tour through the transitions.

    Ah, like minded gardeners think alike... I wrote about my amsonia hubrichtii today. Love the plant.


  4. How pretty. I did a google then an Aussie only google with not much in the way of results but sort of hinting it could be a weed here and banned.
    I hope someone can tell me nay.
    It is one of those pretty plants like borage and love in the mist.

  5. That's a very nice garden you have there!

  6. Me too. These are such great plants. I just got my first (and only) one last summer. It bloomed this year and it was so nice. I am going to look for the amsonia tabernaemontana too. It is great!

  7. Your garden is soooo nice, always love seeing the pics.
    I Pray you and yours are having a Blessed Christmas season.

  8. Sue, I just love the title of your post...!

    Your gardens are really gorgeous...I can't wait to see them this spring & summer. I do not have either plant that you discussed. Perhaps I should look into them. I am always trying to learn new things about plants and perennials. I just have to find some room to put them. I don't have as much sunny, open space as you seem to;(


  9. Thanks for all the comments!

    Mildred, I have done OK, but am starting to yearn for spring, too. When I was out taking pics a couple days ago, I noticed two Dutch iris plants poking up an inch or so. Other people have posted about bulbs coming up already. I hope they do OK in the spring.

    Digital Flower PIctures, I found a USDA site, which I gave a link for in my hubrichtii post, which lists many kinds of amsonias. No wonder they get confused, as to which is which!

    Cameron, Thanks, and I like your post, too. I put my next one up, and should have put a link to your post. I just went back and added one. I see you have already left your comment. :o)

    Jane, I put some links in my hubrichtii post. I'm not sure if they are helpful in Australia, though. If they are invasive because of seeding, you can cut them back like I do. The reason I cut them back is so they don't get too large and flop over the plants around them as much. Only one of mine likes to spread in the ground. I'll be posting about that one, too. I wonder if that's the one that's a weed there.

    Darla, Thanks. It's not as wide as I'd like, but I enjoy it.

    Tina, I just checked Bluebird Nursery's web site, and it looks like they do not ship individual orders. They have a place where you can check for dealers in your area, but I doubt if they have them very far from our area in Nebraska. I hope you find some.

    Bo, Thanks for the prayers, and you're in mine as well.

    Thanks, Jan. When I read about amsonias for the posts, I saw that they prefer some shade, but can tolerate sun. I guess mine there is just tolerating where it is.


I welcome comments and questions from anyone, including those who do it anonymously. Some people find my posts by doing searches, and I like hearing from them. I guess spammers won't even read this message, but I will delete spam as soon as I see it.