Since the weather is not at all inviting outside - 51 degrees and
drizzling very slightly - and since the bugs are swarming and a neighbor is having a
tree cut down and chipped, I decided that rather than go out and garden I
would indulge my curiosity and try to identify a plant that grows in my garden.
(This is really old age speaking - in past years I would have considered this
ideal gardening weather.)
I can't remember where this plant came from - it may have been here when
we moved here in 1970. It is not invasive, but a small patch persists. It is
not particulary noticeable most of the year, and even when it is in bloom, it
is pretty shy and unassuming. But I have never felt I should rip it out, and
when our club began to specialize in miniature plants, I began to pay it more
attention. Now I have spent a couple of hours to no avail - surely some of
you brilliant plant people can help me.
This plant is small. The bloom spikes are no more than 6" high at most.
The leaves on the stem are 1-1.5", alternate, ovate, entire, slightly clasping
the stem. Both leaves and stem are hairy. Aside from the bloom stalks, the
other leaves seem to grow from the rootstock. The half-inch flowers are in
cymes, tubular, with a projecting pistil. Imagine a tiny Mertensia, but creamy
white with just a tiny tip of rusty red on the unopened buds. They are not
really notable until you look at them closely. That is true of so many of the
miniatures - when you look closely you see the exquisite beauty of them.
Hortus lists only one dwarf Mertensia - M. primuloides, which it says is
deep blue, varying to white and yellow. I have searched the web for pictures
of this plant, and it is always said to be deep blue. Guess what, I found an
article by that noted garden writer, Marge Talt, listing it as an alternative
plant to Virginia bluebells, but again described as deep blue.I don't know
whether to assume that this is a M. primuloides variant, or some other totally
unrelated creature. Any ideas?
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