Sunday, April 22, 2012

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Adopting Sophia

Thermopsis chinensis 'Sophia'

This is a story about a little girl, adoption and a great new plant.

When I first spotted the plant, I thought it was lost. Its leaves, from a distance, looked like those of a baptisia, or false indigo. Yet there it was, sitting quietly in the “T” section at my favorite nursery. A closer look at the tag revealed it actually was a variety of thermopsis chinensis, also known as the false lupine, pea bush or Chinese bushpea.

The word “lupine” instantly caught my attention. I have lusted after lupines for years, lured by wonderful pictures in books and magazines. Yet, I had been unable to grow them, something that apparently is the case for many Midwest gardeners.

The tag promised this plant would be much easier to grow than a true lupine and produce lovely canary yellow flowers in full sun to light shade. Its height was estimated at just 1 ½ feet, perfect for the space I had in mind, so I decided to take Sophia home with me. She joined a bed of mostly ornamental grasses, coneflowers and rudbeckia where she could star in her own spring show. The plant grew so well that I returned and bought two more.

The leaves of thermopsis chinensis 'Sophia'

My efforts were rewarded this spring with a wonderful burst of color. The flowers are just now starting to fade after three weeks and that's despite numerous frosts. They’re a softer yellow than forsythia and the color goes well with daffodils. The foliage will provide some interest even once the flowers fade.

Sophia took on an added dimension when I contacted the grower that had introduced it, North Creek Nurseries. Turns out the variety was named after an employee's newly adopted daughter, Sophia. As my husband and I also have adopted, the plant now has a special meaning for me.

I guess, in a way, a gardener is always “adopting” plants, nurturing them, helping them to grow and reach their full potential.

Here's hoping the real life Sophia is doing well. If she's anything like her namesake, I'm sure she'll go far.

A closeup of the flowers on thermopsis chinensis 'Sophia'
A closeup of the flowers on thermopsis chinensis 'Sophia'
By Karen Geisler

1 comment:

  1. What a special story, and I love the flowers!