Penstemon ‘Huskers Red’ vs. ‘Dark Towers’

The nursery industry is known for constantly introducing new plants. Being a plant junkie, I’m always interested in these heavily marketed, new and improved plants. I’ve found some great plants over the years through trial and error. I’ve also found a lot of duds. Plants that were supposedly new and improved that turned out to be worthless because they were too finicky or not truly hardy as stated. One plant I’ve been trialing is Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’. It was a new variety touting darker foliage and better flowers than Penstemon ‘Huskers Red’. I often give new plants a couple of opportunities to impress before writing them off forever. In my own garden, I had a group of Penstemon ‘Huskers Red’ happily growing in a full sun location with good garden soil. When Dark Towers hit the market, I couldn’t resist giving some of them a try so I moved the Huskers Red to a hotter, drier site were I was developing a native garden and replaced them with Dark Towers. Here are pictures of results. Plants are in place for 2 seasons.

Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’
Penstemon ‘Huskers Red’ recently cut back

These pictures were taken the same day. Interestingly the Huskers Red look healthy while the Dark towers are appear burnt to a crisp even though this year has had pretty consistent rain to this point in the season . The Huskers Red were transplanted to a hot, dry, sandy slope and the Dark Towers are in a flat area with soil amended with compost. The older Penstemon, Huskers Red, performed well in each location while Dark Towers struggled in the garden. My assumption is that Dark Towers wouldn’t have performed any better in the hotter drier location. Sometimes the tried and true plant is the better choice. I think this is one of those times. Happy gardening!

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Richard Schipul
Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.

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