These get moved around the garden quite a bit, one of the reasons I can never keep track of their proper names. This may possibly be Kniphofia ‘Glow,’ but I wouldn’t swear to it. Currently, this remaining clump is deep in the back, near the compost pile, an out-of-the-way place for experiments, yes, but also a last-chance proving ground for the beautiful but exasperating ones like kniphofia. For a plant, being moved ever closer to the compost pile is very much like placing a shovel at the ready near the plant in question, a not-so-veiled threat to clean up your act or risk being converted to compost. Threats aside, it’s also an open, sunny site that has the added advantage of hiding their copious leaves from view, which is the main reason they get uprooted so often. Kniphofias really do claim their fair share of garden real estate, and then some.
But when they’re in bloom, all is forgiven.
Just look at that demure, beseeching bend to their necks. “Why, we’re nothing but beautiful and no trouble at all!”
Haven’t we all tried that line before?
Back by the compost bin, they’ll have to duke it out with bare-knuckle streetfighters like macleaya, Arundo donax, and Japanese anemones.
Mazeltov. May the best plant win.
But just to prove I can occasionally be nice to plants and not always the severe taskmaster, here’s a kniphofia I just gave a prime location right outside my office, Kniphofia thompsonii var. snowdenii. I moved it from the front garden which is undergoing an impromptu revision as a result of planting a tree in the midst of all the sun lovers. You’ve gotta keep plants on their toes. Nobody is allowed to get complacent around here. The tree, Acacia podalyriifolia, has taken us all by surprise by growing in leaps and bounds, necessitating some reshuffling this spring as sunny conditions turn swiftly to shade under the acacia’s rapidly expanding canopy. I really should have moved this kniphofia anyway to a site with steadier moisture. It had practically none in the front garden.
Because here’s what a happy, mature clump looks like, photographed at Mendocino Botanical Garden 8/11. It looks quite different from my Kniphofia thompsonii var. snowdenii, but I think this is the effect of good culture and conditions it likes. And doesn’t everything look different in a botanical garden anyway, versus a small home garden where space is on a stingy budget? But there may be various forms in circulation. Confusing the issue is a kniphofia also listed as K. thomsonii, whose photo looks very similar to mine on Far Reaches Farm’s website, that I’ve also seen referred to as K. thomsonii var. thomsonii. Whatever its correct name, the blooms are more open and aloe-esque, the leaves thinner and tidier. Even in the poor conditions of the front garden, it bloomed more frequently than the garden hybrids, and the leaves stay neat and low. This one now has pride of place, sited well away from the compost bins…for now at least. Any clarification on the names thomsonii/thompsonii is most welcome.