Amsonia tabernaemontana

I’ve spent the lion’s share of my life searching for the right bun. You know what I mean: Girl on the lookout for something sculpted, curvaceous, tight, and nicely rounded. Oh…and green.

I thought that I had it pinned with boxwood. But then the snow plow came along and nipped that love affair in the bud. Now I’ve found it with Amsonia tabernaemontana.

When it comes to buns, small little tuffets are adorable, it’s true. But in my eyes, bigger is better. And what I love about A. tabernaemontana is that no slavish clipping is required. The mound you get does not require any scissorhand action whatsoever (as opposed to spiraea, for example, that requires pruners as an appendage-extension).

I’ve got one amsonia that’s a real stunner. Ever notice that certain individuals are more comely than others? It happens with humans, and it’s also the case with plants. Although not all my A. tabernaemontanas are equally svelte (I used them as a repetitive theme in my perennial border, so I have several). Some (especially those growing in particularly fertile soil) actually get so floppy that I have to cut them down after flowering. It’s the one closest to the road in the lean, mean soil and the hot sun that annually fans itself into a lovely orb.

In spring, it’s studded with pale blue blossoms that make a statement by sheer numbers. In midsummer, that plant is a perfectly rounded nugget. In fall, the foliage turns blazing orange. And then the stripped stems bleach silver but hang in there. Sometimes I leave last year’s sticks up most of the winter. Usually, they begin to topple when the first snow strikes. So I cut the plant back just to give the plowman one less solid object to aim his heaps at. But when I flip through the calendar, there’s only a brief interval when this plant isn’t a main, stunning element in the garden.

I know there’s nothing new about Amsonia tabernaemontana. It’s been upstaged by the feathery-leaved A. hubrichtii that is the current darling of the perennial realm. The cultivar ‘Blue Ice’ is getting loads of press at the moment. I like it, for a different role in my garden. But it doesn’t claim the same wonderful silhouette or form the substantial mass that I treasure in Amsonia tabernaemontana. Although I’ve spent many posts talking about newbies in this blog, I decided it was high time to pay tribute to an old faithful.

Oh, and friends — My apologies for going off-line temporarily. The good news is that I gave birth to a new book while I was “away.” More about that later. But I’m back and posting now. Thank you all for your patience. I missed you.

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