Indian pink isn’t pink at all
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
Ten years or more ago, my assistant and I were cruising the byways of Stewart County. That area is a veritable garden spot of spring wildflowers, and it was in May, well past the time of most spring ephemerals, which are abloom from March through April.
May, however, is the peak time for Indian pink to flower. It is a scarce plant in these parts, though books say it is plentiful in some areas of Tennessee. The foot-tall stalks of this perennial bear funnel-shaped blooms that are red and yellow, not pink.
Indian pink, botanically Spigelia marilandica, is one of very few red wildflowers in this area, particularly among spring blooming kinds. Since I had just put in a red flower border those years ago, I was interested in collecting a plant or two of Indian pink. It turned out to be only one, a little sprout my assistant spotted amongst roadside honeysuckle and briars. I carefully rescued it from certain destruction at the hands of right-of-way maintenance machines, set it carefully in that red border and, as they say, the rest is history.
My one little specimen has, over the years, been divided again and again until, now, there are several sizable clumps of it on our premises and at other locations where small pieces of it were planted off one of my clumps.
Indian pink has proven to be a bulletproof perennial. It is a shame it is not more available commercially and, when it can be found, it is at considerable price.
My first two tries at Indian pink were actually boughten specimens. I don’t remember where I got one of them, but the other came from the infamous Wayside Gardens, which offers, at astronomical prices, a number of unusual plants. At any rate, both of the tiny, expensive and wee little things promptly died. I’m not sure either was alive when it arrived, for that matter.
The Standing Rock Creek plant, however, though it was extracted from that gravel roadside with barely a bit of root attached, prospered right off the bat and, eventually, into the clumps described earlier.
Once Indian pink is established, it can be divided by root division every other year or so, just before active growth begins in spring. I learned the hard way that fall division, though it would seem to be plausible and advantageous, won’t work.
The first time I divided a clump in fall, little bloom ensued the following spring and it was two years before the plants got their feet on the ground again.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 2.12.08
Garden Path, Jimmy Williams