Another genus that I've been fascinated with for some time is Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker, Torchlily), named in honour of the German physician and botanist, Johann Hieronymus Kniphof (1704-1763). It has 60-70 species, typically native to Southern Africa.
Its unique and brightly-coloured flowers make it an easy "stand-out" in the summer garden, often adding a somewhat desert-like feel to the landscape with its tufts of narrow foliage.
For some reason, it is now described as "old" and out-of-fashion, and certainly is one of those plants that is often associated with "grandmother's garden". Terra Nova Nurseries however, in Oregon, which is well-known for breeding and introducing new perennials to the industry, has recently expanded their work to include this beautiful plant.
Two series are being introduced in 2010, and likely will be available to consumers this summer. The Popsicles are compact and long-blooming forms, starting in early summer and continuing through autumn. The Solar Flares are larger and known for heavy bloom production from mid-summer through to hard frosts.
First is 'Pineapple' (Popsicles series) with lovely golden-yellow flowers.
Second, is 'Ember Glow' (Solar Flare series) with warm tangerine-orange flowers.
Finally, is 'Fire Glow' (Solar Flare series) with hot orange-red flowers.
These plants have been tested for hardiness in Michgan, so should do well in zones 5-9. Once established they are very drought tolerant. Some early-spring pruning of the old, winter-beaten semi-evergreen foliage (do not cut back in the autumn), and periodic dead-heading during the flowering season, will make for a better presentation.
Here's to dirt under your nails in the coming months, and the return of the Red Hot Poker (now that's a cool common name).
Mark, the coolplantsguy