by David Salman
Penstemon ‘Blue Lips' is a High Country Gardens introduction (new plant to the gardening world) for 2009. While many gardeners judge a plant by only by its flowers, ‘Blue Lips' is an excellent example of a perennial that is both dazzling in flower and sublimely beautiful with just its foliage.
‘Blue Lips' is a hybrid plant I found in my home xeriscape some four years ago. It is a cross between Penstemon linarioides v. coloradensis and Penstemon crandalii. Its fabulous foliage comes from P. linariodes and its profusion of lavender and blue flowers are from parent, P. crandalii. It should prove to be a long lived, small shrub-like cultivar.
To keep the evergreen foliage of ‘Blue Lips' at its best, shear off the fading flowering spikes just as the plant is going out of flower. Gently bunch the flower spikes together with one hand and cut them off at the point where they go down into the mat of foliage with your clipper in your other hand. This process is known as "deadheading."
A prompt deadheading will help the foliage grow out to form a thick mound of finely textured, blue-gray foliage that looks great summer and winter! After the plant has been groomed, it will continue to grow out along the edges, the stems rooting as they move out across its space in the garden. Next year, the plant will have many more stems on which next spring's flowering stems will emerge.
Other High Country Garden Penstemon that have finely textured or matted, evergreen foliage and benefit from the same deadheading technique include all the Penstemon pinifolius types (‘Compactum', ‘Mersea Yellow', ‘Nearly Red', ‘Magdalena Sunshine' and ‘Tall Orange Mix', Penstemon linarioides v. coloradensis and Penstemon virens.