If you like blue, especially sky blue, then Amsonia hubrichtii is the one for you. Named the “2011 Perennial Plant of the Year,” this not-so-commonly known perennial, bearing other names such as Arkansas Blue Star or Arkansas amsonia, is sure to win the heart of gardeners once they get to know it.
Perennials indeed are the backbone of our flower gardens. They come back year after year with just basic maintenance and quite a wide variety is available, ranging in size, color of the flower and the preference for sun or shade. While some people opt for the tried-and true-ones, others like to try newer varieties or cultivars. But, if having difficulty deciding which perennials to get, a reliable resource to refer to is the Perennial Plant Association (www.perennialplant.org), which each year, based on certain favorable criteria, picks a Perennial Plant of the Year. Some examples of previous selections are: Baptisia australis, Geranium “Rozanne,” Scabiosa “Butterfly Blue” and Echinacea purpurea “Magnus.”
A native of Arkansas and Oklahoma, this years’ choice, the Arkansas Blue Star, is truly a multi-season interest plant. The leaves which are light green and very feathery make a lovely companion to, as the name suggests, the sky blue star-shaped flowers borne in early summer. But the uniqueness doesn’t stop here, for in fall, the foliage turns into a spectacular yellow-gold, swaying gently with even the slightest breeze.
Grow amsonias at locations from where the fall color can be seen from a distance. Though easy to grow and adaptable, make sure the soil is well-drained and plenty of sunlight is available. Plants become fairly large over the course of time, so give them space. In fact, the one we had in our garden several years back, a gift from a friends’ garden, became almost like a small shrub, outgrowing the space we could provide.
So, this year, I have decided to welcome the “Arkansas Blue Star” back to our garden; needless to say, I am excited about it and have allocated a fair amount of garden space for the plant to grow and bloom. By the way, if would like to add this low-maintenance yet wonderful perennial to your garden, The Boulevard Flower Gardens in Colonial Heights has a nice selection of healthy plants in stock.