I admit it’s not my best photograph, but I think it manages to convey the effect achieved by a mature specimen of this perennial Wild Indigo. It’s a naturally occurring hybrid between Baptisia alba and B. australis, and was discovered by Rob Gardner, a former curator at the North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG).
In 1996, the NCBG and Niche Gardens introduced this lovely perennial to the gardening public. The specimen in the photo above has been growing in my front flower bed for about ten years now. Every year, it produces more bloom spikes. The Niche Garden folks say that when this perennial is truly happy, it can produce as many as 50 blooming stalks.
I suspect mine doesn’t bloom quite that much because it’s receiving too much shade from a nearby ever-expanding Southern Magnolia, and because my naturally fertile soil is probably not as lean as this prairie-habitat-loving native prefers.
My Baptisias bloom spectacularly for about three weeks, blending seamlessly with the purple-leaved Loropetalum, and the bright pink-flowering Weigela behind it.
The Rob Gardner/Niche Gardens team also introduced another Baptisia hybrid — Carolina Moonlight — that produces soft yellow flowers. It’s on my must-get list — just as soon as I figure out the perfect spot for it.
Wild Indigos require careful placement by Piedmont gardeners. Heavy clay soils should be amended to offer excellent drainage. These plants don’t appreciate being moved, so you need to be certain you’ve sited them correctly on the first try. But if you give them what they need — excellent drainage, lean soil, and full sun — you will be rewarded with a near-month of springtime gorgeousness.