Review: Baptisia Twilite Prairieblues™

by Andrew Keys on January 4, 2010

Pronunciation // In the fall of 2008, I bought two Baptisia Twilite Prairieblues™ at half-off. I was on a budget AND a mission, as ever, agonizing over what to buy, and I don’t know what possessed me to I buy two –- not one, for specimen planting; not three, for a nice group –- of the plants, which I promptly plunked into the holding pattern in my backyard and forgot about, less a VERY, shamefully occasional watering. When finally I planted them, grumbling, they weren’t more than sticks and roots. I’d have thrown them out if I ever threw anything out. I forgot about them again.

Cut to spring ’09, and imagine my shock when my Baptisia emerged, gloriously, like Botticelli’s Venus on the half shell, bloomed for weeks, and enraptured the garden with foliage that aged to the most glaucous blue for the rest of the season.

Well.

I’ve always said plants are forgiving, plants are resilient, and I think Baptisia Twilite Prairieblues™ may be merciful plants’ poster child. I planted it in almost every installation that season, and though I know it looked gawky then, as most Baps do in nursery pots, I can’t wait to see my beauties emerge this year.

Lowdown:

  • COLOR, COLOR, COLOR: Attn: black plant nuts: B. TP’s flowers are so purple they’re almost black. Blooms’ complementary yellow keels are all talked up in the lit; in truth, I didn’t notice ‘em on my plants until I read about ‘em. Black seed pods in late summer/fall are also very cool. Besides that, Baptisia’s amazing blue foliage is its greatest asset and least discussed attribute, in my opinion.
  • LIGHT: B. ‘TP’ is marketed for full sun; mine have been happy with just a few hours midday.
  • WATER: Established Baptisia is a drought tolerant plant.
  • NATIVE: Parents of this hybrid are both U.S. natives.
  • LOW-MAINTENANCE: Post-frost, cut down dead growth before new emerges in spring. That’s it!
  • DESIGN NOTE: Though it blackens and disappears in winter, I believe Baptisia to be an excellent small shrub alternative during the growing season where resources are scarce and shrubs impractical. I’m trying it near greedy tree roots. I’ll let you know.
  • NOM DE PLUME: Technically, B. Twilite Prairieblues’™ name is Baptisia x variicolor ‘Twilite.’ Twilite Prairieblues™ is what the kids these days call a trade name, which is why it doesn’t appear in quotes. Yes, I have a tic about these things.
  • FAMILY TREE: Baptisia is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, whose members include everything from trees, like honeylocust (Gleditsia), to food plants like soy (Glycine max).

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