Apple Blossom Beard-Tongue,
aka Pink Border Penstemon
"In childhood's unsuspicious hours
The fairies crown'd my head with flowers."
-William James Linton
This hybrid is derived largely from Penstemon gloxinioides, the Border Penstemon.
At least two other cultivars sometimes bare the name 'Apple Blossom.' One is actually 'Thorn' but often gets its name changed to 'Apple Blossom' because penstemons have no thorns & the cultivar name is misleading; it has white flowers with pink blush at the petal tips, & is a splendid penstemon indeed, but it's not this one. Another 'Apple Blossom' has smaller flowers & shorter stature than the one we have, but the same coral pink color with white throat, though there is considerable variation, & some clumps produce nearly white blooms with pink flush at petal tips
Our 'Apple Blossom' is the taller form with rounder fatter blooms & deep green leaves. It was developed by Huntington Botanic Gardens so is occasionally called 'Huntington Pink.' It is a recipient of the Award of Garden Merit.
It can reach three feet of height though usually only about two feet, & has a dense clumping spread, becoming very bushy with lance-shaped leaves & tall stems. Ours was put in a harsh xeriscape garden where it did nothing its first year, but became a flowery beauty its second year, though it had grown in a prostrate manner not generally expected, which is why the early-June portrait of mature buds is only a couple inches above the ground.
Evergreen through winter, they may require trimming back nearly to the ground in late winter or early spring. In our mild Zone 8, if it is cut back prematurely in autumn, it will grow back during the winter.
By the time it reaches a clump width of three feet in its third or fourth year, it will begin to "tire" & can be dug up to divide late winter or early spring before new growth begins. If left undivided it'll spread to five feet but produce fewer & fewer flowers.
However, penstemons commonly dislike division & don't perform at all well the year they are dug up, so that best results are expected from cuttings rooted in cold frames or pots, these being used to completely replace exhausted parent plants.
Pendant pink buds erupt into full bloom by June. Deadheading keeps it blooming well into autumn. Blooms of this North American native appeal to hummingbirds & butterflies. Because it prefers a somewhat droughty location in full sun, it makes a particularly good container plant.
Penstemon x campanulatus 'Sour Grapes'
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