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Article by Rick Pudwell, Director of Horticulture, Memphis Botanic Garden
Photo by Barry McCalla
I am Director of Horticulture at the Memphis Botanic Garden. I am originally from the Chicago area, moving to Memphis about 26 years ago. So I guess you would call me a transplanted Northerner. I was the first Horticulturist at the Memphis Zoo at that time. I have been with the Botanic Garden for 17 years.
A plant that I particularly like is Amsonia hubrichtii, also known as Arkansas Amsonia. While this perennial does flower in spring with pale blue, star shaped blooms, that is insignificant compared to the wonderful texture of linear-lanceolate foliage. This plant thrives in full sun. As long as the soil is fertile and has good drainage. The reward is billowing mounds of fine textured medium green foliage that reach up to 36 inches and as large across, once the plant is well established. Individual leaves are very narrow and about 3 inches in length. I can’t emphasize enough how great the textural impact of this plant is in hot, sunny situations where the only blooming plants might be summer annuals such as Lantana or perennials such as Echinacea or Rudebeckia. A really nice foil for bright colors and coarse textures.If this weren’t enough, stems of cut foliage conditions quite well and are always well received by women in out flower arranging classes. Finally, in late fall the entire plant turns a beautiful shade of yellow in the fall. If back-lit by the sun it actually glows.This is a perennial with 3 seasons of interest that I would like to see used more in southern gardens. Amsonia hubrichtii is hardy in zones 6 to 9. While available in nurseries it is not usually offered in large quantities. I am sure if the demand were greater, the industry would respond and it would be easier to purchase.
Amsonia hubrichtii is located outside of the Children's Garden and the Horticulture Center as well as in the Four Season's Garden.