Week after week I have watched the red in the thermometer plummet. As it gets colder, most of us hurry in and out of our homes as quickly as possible. Dressed up in layers, it is not always opportune to catch visions of nature. Quite frankly, in Chicagoland sub-zero weather, I am too busy running and thinking of my freezing body parts to look at the all-but-dead perennial beds next to my driveway.
However, one day not too long ago, arms loaded, knit cap pulled down past my eyebrows, I walked past an open car door and was absolutely certain I heard a rattle snake. No kidding. A rattle snake.
Convinced this was the winter I had finally lost my mind from garden-withdrawal, I dropped my armload and walked past the car again listening carefully. A long, dead and rather bony arm of Baptisia Australis – or False Indigo – was sticking out beyond the garden into the driveway. My coat caught it as I walked by and the now blackened seed heads trembled and waved as I past. The seeds were still thick inside the heads and were making a delightful rattling noise when I touched it. The wind had the same effect and I stood outside for a half hour or so playing with the seed heads like a little girl.
In the early summer False Indigo comes alive with color. Long flower spikes of purple flowers wave above the green foliage. Small flowers which resemble “Sweet Pea’s” in size appear along the spikes, although there is very little scent. The flower is delightful and attracts all matter of butterfly’s and even hummingbirds.
Once the plants are established, it seems a completely indestructible plant and perfect for the often-salted by-way of my front drive. It is deer resistant, wet tolerant, tolerates salt, does not mind drought, and loves poor soil. Without a doubt, the beautiful Baptisia Australis is the “Flower of the Hour” and my choice for one of the best all around performing plants in the perennial bed.
When the flower spikes are spent and looking dreary I cut off about two thirds of the unattractive flowers spikes, then bend down the other third of the flower tops without removing them, mixing them in with the foliage.
Saving a third of the spikes assures me I will have seed to spread in the spring – or a rattlesnake in my garden during the winter. Either way, it puts a smile on my face and happiness in my heart.
Keep dreaming of spring – and Baptisia Australis – it will be here before you know it!