Hardy gloxinia was popular in the past, but fell out of fashion for some reason. Maybe now's the time for this attractive plant to make a comeback in American gardens.
Courtesy of Lois J. de Vries
Here in northwestern New Jersey, where temperatures are still dropping into the 40s at night, there's no holding back for gardeners. Common sense has nothing to do with how early we purchase our annuals and tender perennials.
Recently, I made a quick stop at a local garden center "just to look around," and bought a plant I didn't know existed – hardy gloxinia (Incarvillea delavayi).
A quick search on the internet revealed that this is not a new introduction, but rather a plant native to the Orient that was sent to Europe in the mid-1800s. It is named for two Jesuit missionaries/plant explorers to China, Pierre Nicolas Le Cheron d'Incarville and Jean Maries Delavay.
Hardy gloxinias were popular in older English gardens, and I can easily see why. The deeply cut fernlike foliage stands up to 24-inches tall and adds texture to the garden, even after the flowers fade.
Multiple splashy rose-purple or white blossoms with yellow throats are borne on central stems that attract hummingbirds as well as butterflies. They are related to trumpet vines and have few pest problems, except for slugs.
All that makes me question why they ever went out of favor. But maybe that's just it. Flowers and flower colors, like women's fashions, go in and out of style at the drop of a hat, no matter how well-loved they may be.
Perhaps, also like women's fashions, everything comes back again, sooner or later.