The first one I saw stood quietly outside an office where I worked several years ago. I noticed its tall, graceful form and the colors of the foliage and the stem. Then as Spring progressed, it budded and bloomed; I was hooked. I’d always been attracted to green/purple/burgundy combinations but it was the lovely flowers that sealed the deal. I wasn’t sure what it was and felt very fortunate to happen upon it at a garden center shortly thereafter.
I admired it from afar for a few years, then bought one for myself about three years ago. Since my yard is always in a state of flux, ‘Husker Red’ lived in several different areas from full on afternoon sun to partial shade. No matter where I put it, it performed beautifully!
Last year, my clump was getting pretty big, so I divided it into about a dozen separate plants. Some I put in the ground immediately, some in pots, and a few were given away to a couple of neighbors and my good friend, Joyce. She didn’t seem all that excited about the pot of burgundy sticks I gave her with limp leaves hanging off them. I asked her to trust me.
This Spring, Joyce has done a lot in her garden, too – adding, moving, rearranging. She told me a few weeks ago that her favorite plant to look at in her garden was that one I gave her last year. She loves the form, the silhouette, the color, the leaves and the flowers. All the same things I love about it, too.
So I took another look at my old favorite and began taking pictures. I’ve always loved Husker Red, but it did become like part of the background. Joyce’s appreciation made me remember the things I’ve always loved about it:
- It’s tall.
- It’s drought tolerant.
- It’s deer and rabbit resistant.
- It’s colorful, even without flowers.
- It grows and blooms well from full sun to part shade.
- It looks great and behaves well with many other plants.
- It attracts hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and birds.
Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ was developed at the University of Nebraska (home of the Nebraska Cornhuskers) and was named the Perennial Plant of the Year for 1996.
If you haven’t yet given ‘Husker Red’ a try, go get one now! Give it well drained soil and you won’t be disappointed!