Who am I?
I ran across the beautiful specimen of a plant today and had to purchase it. It was from a bush and tree nursery who occasionally have a smattering of ornamental plants. This place is mainly to the trade so I wasn't immediately indignant that there wasn't a tag on it.
When a woman came up to ask me if she could help, I asked her what it was, and she said, point blank, Foxglove.
To which I said, "this cannot be foxglove." I said it out loud too, which is highly unusual, being a relative newbie gardener, I try to keep el moutho firmly shut out in the real world so I do not look like an idiot. For some reason, to you folks reading here, looking like an idiot is much less an obstacle.
Anyhow, she repeated, foxglove. To which I said, "you cannot possibly convince me that this is foxglove. First of all, it does not resemble it in the slightest, and second foxglove would be a crispy critter after a day in the full sun where it is currently sitting. Honestly, foxgloves are 3 or 4 feet tall with bells and tall spike form. Haven't you ever seen one?" To this she started digging around through all of the pots looking for an ID card and came up with one that said, "primrose." Oh for heaven sake, I thought, it didn't look like primrose either.
I could have better accepted primrose as a possibility, yet by now I was dubious. That this lady was seemingly convinced one minute it was foxglove and another minute it was primrose was highly suspect. And in light of the fact that it didn't, on the face of it, resemble either, yet she seemed to be completely unaware of this fact...
I couldn't help myself. I hauled off, gathered speed, and gave her the big fat hairy eyeball... so hairy one could reclassify it as a furry eyeball (but I would use a tag so people wouldn't be confused when choosing between hairy and furry eyeballs).
For some reason this woman was running around this nursery pretending to work here... this could be the only explanation. As dear old Holmes would say, when you've eliminated the impossible, whatever is remaining, however improbable, is the truth.
So having solved that mystery with swift efficiency, I brought the plant home and got out my smoking jacket and pipe and weird little hat (I forwent the cocaine... you have to draw the line somewhere with these rhetorical devices.) I began studying the facts. The flowers, in my vastly inferior experience, resemble something like those of torenia or even more like those of a thunburgia vine (blue sky flower/blackeyed susan vine). The habit and leaves looked nothing like either, this has simple medium green leaves, opposite, appearing from the bottom through the mid point of the stem. The stems are blackish, stiff and thin. The flowers are a bluish purple, non waxy, relatively small and seem to pop up one after another on each sprig, but not all together. Its about 12 inches high, with an obvious tendency for sprawliness, and was basking in full frontal Southern sun. It also sat for 15 minutes in the parking lot locked in the car on the way home while I stopped by Jack's Comic Dogs for an Omega Dog and a diet coke. The steamy 115 degree sauna inside the car had no effect. Tropical, I presume?
Foxglove indeed. Such treatment would have surely left an ordinary foxglove looking like a wet noodle with a dress on. Armed with my trusty pipe and MacBook I preceded to type in all descriptors I could imagine might fit this plant. I searched for look alike flowers. I searched for full sun tropicals that might fit the color and description. I searched for black stemmed flowers. I even searched for South Carolina natives hoping maybe it actually came from around here. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
So exasperated, I finally typed into Google: primrose foxglove. And you're not going to believe this. 7 entries down, on the first page, the very first entry that was speaking of a unique plant (not a varietal name of foxglove, or foxgloves with primroses), I see a plant called Asystasia gangetica. Also known as Ganges Primrose, Creeping Foxglove and they've added a third name to which the generally associated plant has zero in common: Chinese Violets. Sure enough, its my plant. It's not genetically related whatsoever to foxglove (digitalis), primrose (primula or oenothera) or violets (viola), but it hasn't stopped the official plant naming committee from trying to confuse gardeners as often and as thoroughly as possible. Honestly people, do we lack that much in the creativity department that we have to reuse names?
The moral of this story is that I am obviously no Sherlock, but instead a total Watson. And one should probably not be throwing around hairy eyeballs no matter how much evidence is stacked against another person. Sorry, lady at the nursery. You were right, on both accounts, whether you knew it or not (this is still a mystery). I guess you probably do work there after all. Maybe.
But I will add myself one pat on the back.. it is indeed related to thunbergia, and it is tropical. And now that I've researched it, looking at just the stalks and form, it does look a heck of a lot like some ruellias, to which it is also related.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden part 2
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