Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Lazarus Plant



You should be dead, I said. 

A pile of mush, slime and rot.

You should be dead, I said. 

But you're not.


I bought three penstemon 'Cherry Glow' last year from Joy Creek in Oregon and had plans to overwinter them indoors. They ended up spending the winter in a pot outside. Only hardy in zones 7-9, I was sure they were dead when our temps dipped below zero. I was shocked and very happy to find new growth on them.


Well said, Igor.


My penstemon didn't bloom much last summer but did put out lots of healthy foliage. 
This is the only photo of them I took.

Photo from Joy Creek


56 comments:

  1. Isn't it amazing how some plants die that shouldn't and others survive when you were sure they could not. I love this time of year because I get to see which plants made it through winter. And I get to search out new ones to replace the ones that gave up the struggle - always fun to pick out another plant to enjoy!

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    1. It is definitely exciting to see growth on a plant I had expected to die. I was pretty shocked!

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  2. Isn't it great when plants show us how hardy they really are! It probably makes them stronger if they do survive. Btw, looking forward to seeing you in Toronto!

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    1. I'm excited to meet you, too! If they continue to put out growth, I'm going to send a pic to Joy Creek to let them know how tough these guys are. :o)

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  3. We had a harsh winter two years ago and once the snow had thawed it looked as if I had lost a number of plants. Being a great believer in a plant's determination to survive (and a bit of a weed when it comes to culling plants), I left them and eventually they all grew back stronger than before. Hurrah for your Penstemon. Long may she flower!

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    1. I'm always amazed at how resilient plants are. :o)

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  4. Hooray for new growth on your Penstemon! Happy new week!

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  5. Buds on formerly dormant trees and plants unexpectedly returning from the dead - nothing much can beat the joys of those sightings.

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  6. Perhaps in light of their uncanny survival, they will bloom like crazy this summer.

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  7. yah!! isn't that just the thing about gardening, we never know what might work and it's such a pleasure when something survives. Glad to see your penstemon survived, they are gorgeous plants.

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    1. I was a little frustrated with myself for buying them because I thought they were going to end up being an expensive annual. I think the sharp drainage must have helped prevent them from rotting in all the snow.

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  8. Apparently hardiness has a lot to do with the kind of summer the plant had in the previous year. If it had a good summer it is supposed to be hardier. That would make sense. I hope your Cherry Glow make it.

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    1. It was definitely a happy plant last summer, even though they didn't bloom much. I think they spent most of the summer just settling in. I hope they bloom their heads off this year. :)

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  9. Wow. Who would have thought? If it were my garden I'm sure they would grow to within a few days of blooming and then suddenly kick the bucket. I'm hoping you're part of the "better luck" crowd!

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    1. No way! You're too hard on yourself! I've killed a lot of penstemon and they are all about the drainage. If the drainage is sharp enough, they're a really tough plant. I think the gravel mulch must have helped prevent crown rot. Yay!

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    2. I was wondering about the drainage. So you had it in a pot with sharp drainage? And perhaps some protection from rain? From what I understand, many penstemons will survive in super cold climates as long as they don't have to cope with wet feet. I'm happy yours didn't know it was only supposed to be hardy to zone 7! ;-)

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    3. Zero protection from rain! Its been covered with snow for 2 weeks. But it had sharp drainage and is mulched with pea gravel so the crown wouldn't rot.

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  10. We are a tough bunch, Oregonians. If your Penstemon doesn't survive—but we know it will—you'll just have to come back to Joy Creek, let them replace it, and we can have another visit! Maybe you need to read it some Ken Kesey, or show it the movie, "Wild." It was filmed here. It might spur your plant on to greatness. (What a stunning color!)

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    1. That would be awesome! I bought several plants at Joy Creek but I don't know if the others survived or not. I think the big leaved thyme made it through, too, but it's too early to tell.

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  11. I like surprises in the garden. Pehaps they wll do bette this summer.

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  12. Great news and you used one of my fav movies....hopefully after this winter our gardens will be lively, grow and flower.

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    1. We are all overdue for some warmth and color!

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  13. Hysterical laughing going on here .. along with some strange violin playing in the background with cigar smoke wafting in the air .. could it be? .. a prelude to ... nah ! ... not with 4 "blanking" feet of snow EVERYWHERE I look ... but I am happy for you ! .. what other creature but a gardener would be so darn over joyed with seeing some "life" come back from the brink of supposed death .. it humbles yet excites us right? sounds a bit kinky ... but none of us are with out kinks or ... am I alone in that department ... hum ?
    Note to self .. sticking a few lightening bolts up a plant's garters will do it every time .. note to self (yes, I said it twice .. brain is still in hibernation mode .. repeating is a necessary .. what was I talking about again ? OK .. enough nonsense !
    Joy (up north .. wayyyyyy up north !)

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    1. Young Frankenstein, or should say Fronkenshteen, is one of the best movies ever! I love it!! I love anything with Gene Wilder. What a brilliant actor. :o) Your snow is ridiculous and needs to go away. Break out the flame thrower!

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  14. Don't you love surprises like this! Sometimes the plants I baby don't survive, while others that I neglected make it in spite of me. Looking forward to seeing these in bloom. Your photos reminded me that I used to show the movie "Young Frankenstein" just for fun in one of my senior classes after we had finished reading Shelley's "Frankenstein." It always surprised me how much the kids enjoyed this movie--Mel Brooks' comedy is timeless.

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    1. When I read Shelley's original, I thought it was such a sad book. But the movie is a riot. What a fun movie to watch in class. :o)

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  15. We've been on a Gene Wilder movie marathon lately. You are often as funny as he is...high praise indeed.

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    1. Thank you!! What a honor to even be in the same sentence as him!

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  16. Now that is a treat! Man nothing better than finding an extra bonus come spring! Happy week to you friend! Nicole xo

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    1. I had already planned on stuffing that pot full of some of the annuals I'm growing from seed. Time to readjust my plan. :o) But what a cool surprise!

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  17. Ha! That's a rather marvelous turn up for the books isn't it??? Here's to lots of flowers from them this year. It isn't often something like that happens!xxx

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    1. This is definitely one for the record books! Spending a cold winter in a pot is a death sentence to many plants. The beginning of our winter was mild, so maybe that helped.

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  18. I love when the garden gives the gardener a break every now and then. A pleasant surprise is a rare thing in my garden :) Looking forward to hearing more of your gardening tales now that spring is around the corner.

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    1. Maybe the surprised balanced out popper scooping for 4 dogs in the slushy snow. Ick....

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  19. That is fantastic news. I love it when a plant surprises us in a good way. I hope you have many hummer-loving blossoms this summer. And while you're admiring it, you have pleasant memories or Oregon.

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    1. It's definitely a sweet reminder of a wonderful trip. :o)

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  20. Yeah, it made it through that awful winter weather....it's a true survivor for sure.
    It's probably one of those plants that doesn't like too much fussing over, but who would have thought?

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    1. I thought it was going to die a bitter, miserable death!

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  21. A sweet reminder of last summer's Fling. Glad to hear they made it through - especially in a pot: who would have thought? Here's to lots of blooms this summer!

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    1. Hear! Hear! Raise a toast to being alive!

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  22. Surprises like this are always nice. I find myself wondering about certain tender plants and my newest Japanese Maples. The weather in February was so brutally cold I wonder if they have survived. I guess I will find out in the next month or so. Fingers crossed!

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    1. I hope they made it through. After your brutal weather, you're overdue for some garden happiness. :o)

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  23. Yay! It's alive. Oh, happy day! I can't wait to see your photos of the plant as the season progresses. :)

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    1. I went and checked on it the other day to make it really, truly is still alive. It still is. YAY!

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  24. So cheering when plants do this. I think a lot of plants die from winter wet rather than cold.

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  25. I've had this same experience with a number of plants, most recently with plumbago.

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    1. Wow! That's awesome! I never would have thought plumbago would survive a Chicago winter.

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  26. Hello Tammy, we had one shrub in the old garden that we named, "The Jesus Bush" because it stayed looking like a pile of dead sticks until about June when it suddenly burst into leaf. If I wasn't busy with other parts of the garden, it would have been out on the compost heap as a lost cause. In that sense, I'm glad for my procrastination!

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    1. What a perfect name! I just discovered two shrubs that I planted last fall didn't make it through the winter. I wish only the cheap plants would die.

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