Sinningia hardiness reports

Jim McKenney
Thu, 23 Jun 2005 06:06:06 PDT
John, Tony and others, I'm really intrigued by this. I had no idea there
were so many possibilities. 

This posting really should be going to Alpine-L, but the issue of hardy
gesneriads came up here, so I'm responding here. 

I've been toying with the idea of using gesneriads (not necessarily hardy
ones) as rock garden plants. It's not as crazy as it sounds: after all, many
of these plants are saxicolous in nature. And one of the longest cultivated
(since the beginning of the seventeenth century and maybe before that) rock
garden plants is a gesneriad: Ramonda. Years ago, I inherited a friend's
plant collection. Among the plants: some dwarf Sinningia. These have turned
out to be so easy to manage that I've been looking for ways to use them in
the garden. 

The possibility of developing reliably garden hardy strains of Sinningia and
other gensneriads really gets me going! So many of these plants have the
sort of growth habit associated with alpines: neat, tight growth and
disproportionately large flowers.  And then there are the sorts with upright
spikes of bloom, somewhat like Penstemon. If we could depend on them to take
care of themselves outside it would open new horizons for rock gardeners. It
would give those of us who garden in the summer muggy east a very good
reason to take the summer rock garden seriously. It might provide us with an
identity of our own as rock gardeners, give the rest of the world something
to come and see and (shame on me) envy. 

The thought of a late summer rock face spangled with the brilliant red,
blue, and purple slippers of Sinningia nestled in mats of Selaginella and
accented with racemes of rusty reds in the style of Smithiantha - this
really fires my imagination. 

Keep testing, Tony and others: I'm anxiously awaiting the results!

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where I'm ready for the
"Miracle Houseplants" to become the new miracle garden plants. 

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