About this cultivar:
Penstemon 'Sour Grapes' M. Fish is a bushy cultivar dense panicles of tubular, two-lipped flowers bunched as the name suggests. The bloom in purple and blue shades, whitish within the throat. First introduced by the Fantastic Margery Fish of East Lambrook Manor, Somerset in in the 1950's. Sometimes there is paler variety called 'Stapleford Gem' that is sold as 'Sour Grapes' so watch out!
- Position: Full sun, partial shade
- Soil: Almost any soil, grows well in Ballyrobert
- Flowers: July, August, September, October
- Other features: Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit (RHS AGM), Bees and Butterflies
- Hardiness: H4 - Hardy through most of the UK (-10 to -5°C), Fully hardy, grows well in Ballyrobert
- Habit: Clump forming
- Foliage: Semi evergreen
- Height: 50 - 75 cm (1.5 - 2.5 ft)
- Spread: 30 - 60 cm (1 - 2 ft)
- Time to full growth: 2 to 5 years
- Plant type: Herbaceous Perennial
- Colour: Green, purple
- Goes well with: --
About this genus:
Penstemon (pent-ste-mon) gets its name from the Greek pent, meaning five, and stemon, meaning stamen; guess why!?? Commonly know as the beardtongues, it is a large genus of North American and East Asian flowering plants in the plaintain family (Plantaginaceae). Mostly deciduous or semi-evergreen perennials, the remainder being shrubs or subshrubs, heights can range from 10 cm to as much as 3 metres!
A prominent, often hairy, staminode is the most distinctive feature of this genus, often giving the flower a general appearance of an open mouth with a fuzzy tongue protruding, thus inspiring the common name beardtongue.
Native Americans long used Penstemon as medicinal remedies however John Mitchell published the first scientific description in 1748. Despite being a North American native, Europe has always been far more active in Penstemon cultivation. Seeds began to be offered for sale in Europe as early as 1813, with John Fraser offering four species in London, followed by Flanagan & Nutting offering nine species in their 1835 catalog. Subsequently many hybrids were developed in Europe; Lemoine had developed nearly 470 by the time of his death in 1911!
When I lived in the USA I was surprised to learn that, over there, Penstemon are often used in xeriscape landscaping as many are native to desert or alpine regions! Our Penstemon grow happily in our rainy, wet, clay soil garden at Ballyrobert; full sun or part shade. Weather permitting, many of ours even flower from June to November. In fact the Penstemon we have grow so well I thought they where native to wet clay environments!