A Truly Regal Cardinal Flower?

If you followed the news much in the past week, you undoubtedly heard about archeologists confirming the remains of Richard III. A team had found his skeleton under a parking lot in the middle of England last summer. They recently confirmed that these remains were his by tracing the DNA back from modern day descendants.

I believe if you excavate some of the gardens I worked in a decade or so ago, you will find royal remains as well. I fell for the captivating, dark foliage of Lobelia ‘Queen Victoria’ and planted her in the garden. Alas, her reign was short lived and she did not return after one season. I had honestly forgotten about Queen Victoria due to her lackluster performance until a new cardinal flower flew across my radar last week.

Lobelia Black Truffle

Angela Treadwell-Palmer, co-owner of Plants Nouveau, posted on Facebook about her excitement for a new Lobelia called ‘Black Truffle.’ This new selection was bred by Peter Heus. It is a dark leaved cardinal flower, like the late Queen Victoria but I have hopes that it will hold up better in the garden. In searching through on-line literature for Lobelia ‘Queen Victoria,’ there even seems to be confusion on the parentage of the plant. Black Truffle cardinal flower is a true cultivar of the native and hardy Lobelia cardinalis.

Lobelia in flower

Lobelia ‘Black Truffle’ should do well in wet conditions where cardinal flowers normally thrive. We have quite a few partly sunny, boggy sites in the garden where I would like to give this plant a try. I need to make sure that there is a light green foliage plant to back up Black Truffle to make it really stand out. The plants are currently being sold as plugs through North Creek Nursery to garden centers and wholesalers. If you only want a few plants, check with your local garden center to see if they are going to buy in any plants to sell.


Photos: Plants Nouveau

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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