2010 Perennial Plant of the Year

Baptisia australis

I was thrilled to learn that Baptisia australis, AKA False Indigo, was named the 2010 perennial plant of the year. I have been a fan of this incredible plant since my visit to the House of Seven Gables in Salem, Mass. many, many years ago.

The gardens of the House of Seven Gables had several Baptisias. I was impressed with their size and tidy, upright form and drawn to the flowers' beautiful color. The blue-violet flowers, some call pea-like others say they are lupine-like, where simply cheery. In the fall, the dried seed heads make a wonderful rattle sound.

I immediately planted six in my northern Wisconsin garden. And, once I stopped rearranging my plants to accommodate new and expanded gardens, the Indigos took off! (Note: The sandy soil of those gardens made it very easy to move plants, even those with long, thick roots.)

Today, I enjoy a nice collection of False Indigo that is growing across the street from where I live. They are coupled with pink knock-out rose. This simple planting has a great impact on the small space.


The Need for Green

I admit I may border on being all consumed with plants and gardens. I cannot look at a house, a neighborhood, a fast food restaurant and not see the space in relationship to a garden. It is a curse and blessing in one.
I enjoy my weekly run to McDonald’s for coffee, because, well I am getting coffee, but also, the view is very impressive. A very thoughtful garden was installed with a fine collection of conifers, perennials, a dry creak bed and a small sitting area.

There was no need for such a garden. No one will say ‘super-size’ me because they are enamored with the garden. It was done purely for the love of gardens and the simple pleasure and beauty a small pocket garden can bring.

The down side is I can not help but see the potential for, or the need for new or rejuvenated gardens wherever I go. Intersections, off ramps from the highway, neighborhood street corners, abandoned lots….

In a lot of areas the question is- Is there money in the budget and is it money well spent? I would say yes. Of course, if it came down to enough police officers and more roses, safety trumps gardens. However, in the grand scheme of things, as we pass through our life- the joy we experience comes from friends, family and beauty. The beauty found in art, nature and gardens. If beauty was not important to us, would we place such value on museums, cemetery parks, zoos, gardens, arboretums, neighborhood parks, nature preserves….?? The list goes on.

So, while some may not consciously acknowledge McDonalds’ garden, I am sure they would notice its absence if it was replaced with more parking.

The way I see it is this- in our life we need more beauty than not. Our quality of life, some of the simplest joy, happiness and sense of calm, comes from beauty- beauty that comes from a garden, no matter how small.