We first met the little-known Baptisia nuttalliana back in the late 1990s on a botanizing trip to the gulf coast, and found it fascinating. Unlike most baptisia species, it doesn’t produce terminal spike, opting instead for axillary flowers. It’s namesake is English botanist Thomas Nuttall (1786 – 1859), who discovered it back in the day. Most forms are a bit homely, compared to the modern hybrids, but this beanbag-shaped, dense plant is one we’ve selected for future clonal propagation under the name Baptisia ‘Nuttball’.
Baptisias, commonly known as false indigo, are North American native members of the pea family and quite drought tolerant once established. They provide amazing architectural form in a sunny garden or perennial border, and are deer-resistant and a butterfly magnet (See the top 25 flowers that attract butterflies here.).
Not only do baptisia come in blue, which many people are familiar with in the most common species, B. australis, but they are also available in a wide array of colors such as white, yellow, purple, and pink, and new breeding efforts are producing bicolor flowers such as those of Lunar Eclipse.
Baptisias have long been one of our favorite groups of sun perennials here at PDN. Through our trials of new varieties introduced to the market, as well as our own breeding program, we continue to select for improved structure and habit as well as flower color. In 2017, we have introduced 2 new varieties in our Tower Series, Yellow Towers and Ivory Towers. These join our previous introduction, Blue Towers, all having a vigorous upright habit to 4.5-5′, terminating in 18-20″ spikes of flowers, true show-stoppers in the garden.
Due to high demand, we quickly sold out of finished stock of Ivory Towers, but don’t fret, we have another crop coming along and they should be ready just in time for our Spring Open Nursery & Garden Days April 28-30 and May 5-7. And be sure to join us on Sunday May 7 at 2pm for our Gardening Unplugged garden chat series, where Tony will be talking about baptisias. You can also read Tony’s more in depth article about baptisias, here.