Sounding more like mythical beasts than the slender plant forms they describe, these common names are almost as splendid as their subjects.
Another spire from one of the Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’, or white nettle-leaved mullein, which germinated so well last autumn, has burst into flower.
I am relieved that I seem to be forgiven for hampering their growth in the spring when I abandoned the seedlings in small pots for too long before planting out.
From a distance the white spires of these short-lived perennials are beautiful enough, but it is the detail of their flowers that really captures my heart: I adore the furry purple filaments that reach out from the crisp white petals, like pipe cleaners, each adorned with an orange anther. (Somehow, these stamens always put me in mind of a Muppet – the mullein muppet, perhaps?)
They form a wonderful contrast with another favourite that has just emerged nearby: Penstemon Blackbird. Splashes of deep blue from Salvia patens (gentian sage) complete the picture.
The penstemon was a division from my mum’s garden, that I planted in the top border a few months’ ago; it must be my favourite penstemon.
I love the rich wine-coloured flowers with their gently speckled white throats. Their common name, beard-tongue, is another reference (like the official name, penstemon) to the tufted fifth stamen which protrudes from these flowers (pente = 5, stemon = stamen).
Both of these late-blooming plants enrich the early autumn tapestry of the garden; and they seem to make fine bed-fellows too.