Special to The Explorer
Tohono Chul Park and curator of plants Russ Buhrow have bred a new, patent-pending hybrid plant.
The hybrid penstemon, called “red-headed beauty,” should be available for the first time at this spring’s Desert Corner plant sale.
“It is a very beautiful penstemon,” said Lee Mason, Tohono Chul’s director of general services. “It’s compact, and full growing.”
During his tenure at Tohono Chul, Buhrow has been experimenting on crossing species already in cultivation. A result of his patience and persistence is this new hybrid. Mason said Buhrow has worked on “red-headed beauty” for about four years. “It’s several different crosses all together,” Mason said. “It takes a while to get them.”
“Red-headed beauty” was created by crossing penstemon palmeri, penstemon parryi and penstemon superbus — creating penstemon (palmeri x parryi) x superbus.
It is a “prolific spring bloomer,” about five feet tall, with large, sparkling purplish red trumpets “that will draw flocks of hummingbirds to your garden,” a release said.
Specimens at the spring plant sale are “all propagated by cutting, all growing plants in gallon pots,” likely priced somewhere between $6 and $12, Mason said. “They’ll be ready to go right in the ground. Some of them may even be blooming. Spring is the bloom.”
A half-dozen or more other crosses are “in the works right now,” Mason said. The park hopes to begin regularly releasing hybrids as part of its plant propagation program.
For the last 20 years, Tohono Chul Park has been “the go-to garden for the plant geek and casual gardener alike to find new cultivars to add to their desert home and business landscapes,” a release said.
Buhrow “has taken many a trek in the mountains and valleys of our Sonoran Desert region to find new wild plant species that he then propagates with varying success for the park.”
Results fluctuate widely. Some plants, like Atascosa rock pixie (elytraria imbricata) took 20 years of experimentation before being ready to introduce into cultivation, with a release to the public this fall. Others, like guardiola (guardiola platyphylla) were planted and sold in one season and continue to be a staple at Tohono Chul Park’s year-round greenhouse shop.
For more information, call 742-6455, visit the website www.tohonochulpark.org, or visit in person at 7366 N. Paseo del Norte, one stoplight west of the intersection at Oracle and Ina.