Monday, June 15, 2009
One of the groups of plants that I have always admired--even lusted after--but have never experimented with much is Kniphofia, the "red hot pokers". Even as a child, I remember seeing those full color pictures in the Wayside Gardens catalog (and many others) and thinking that there just couldn't be a much prettier or more impactful flower. I don't know whether it was just the flowers, which looked to me like some sort of fanciful orange fireworks bursting in mid-air, or if I had already started a lifelong love affair with all things "spiky" and sword-like in texture. Probably, it was a combination of the two, even if I didn't know it at the time. That affair carries on today and, I have to admit, it carries on torridly with a Kniphofia named 'Lola'.
It is no secret that I like my plants big, and 'Lola' is certainly a big-boned gal. With spiky green foliage rising to nearly 5 feet tall and as wide and with brilliant orange blossoms approaching a foot long and carried on sturdy stems reaching nearly 7 feet tall, she's one of the biggest of all of the red hot pokers. I'm not sure that any others exceed her in size. I love Tony Avent's description of 'Lola' in his Plant Delights Nursery catalog (which is where I bought mine, by the way, http://www.plantdelights.com/), saying that 'Lola' is, "as we say in the South, a real honker". She's also very well adapted to our climate and has proven her worth both in my garden, as well as the gardens of several clients.
I had just planted my new plant last fall and was concerned this spring that 2 degrees this winter may have been more than 'Lola' could handle. She died all the way down to the ground, leaving no sign of live foliage whatsoever and while I knew that Kniphofia would often resprout from "root cuttings", I was afraid that the crown had been killed and the setback may have amounted to several years' worth of growth. I needed not have any fear. 'Lola' came firing back from below ground (the crown obviously did not freeze), and is even going to have her first flowers, even after a brutal winter.
One of the other things that I love about 'Lola' is her flowering time. The flower spikes are just now emerging and won't peak until around July 1 for me, lasting for approximately a month in good shape (starting next week and lasting until mid-July). Once flowering ceases, the foliage remains great looking, adding bold, spiky texture to the garden for the rest of the season. Kniphofia 'Lola' looks great with Hemerocallis 'Hyperion', Verbena bonariensis, Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff' and many other garden plants with similar bloom times. If you like your plants, big, bold and simply fabulous, 'Lola' is your girl!