Red Hot Poker

Red Hot Poker – Something not to grow, and bunnies.

When I first got into gardening I was attacted to large blooming perennials, and planted mostly those. I have come a long way since then, namely I appreciate things like edibles more, interesting foliage, and length of bloom time as much as bloom shape, size, or color.

But sometimes that interest in large blooming perennials rears up. Enter Kniphofia, other wise known as Red Hot Poker plant. A few years ago on a walk I saw it in bloom, thought it looked cool, and wondered why I had never seen it before. I couldn’t find a good source for plants, so I bought some seeds and started them.

Unlike many of my seed starting endeavors this worked out, and I transplanted them outside, and generally took care of them. Three years later they got big and bushy and were ready to bloom. For a perennial from seed that sort of length is typical. I was pretty excited as I watched the scapes rise.

In the end this plant only bloomed for about three days, and it never got “red hot” remaining more a muted salmon color at best. What is more it had the bloom habit of a gladiolus where the lower flowers bloom and close before the uppers open, so the whole “poker” was never in bloom at once.

It bloomed for such a little amount of time, that I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of it, so below you see it not in bloom.

Now, if I’m going to give roughly 4 or 5 square feet to a plant in my garden it better bloom for more than 3 days, or provide me something edible.

A few days after it had stopped blooming, I dug it up… oops.

A rabbit had taken advantage of the messy foliage mound and dug a burrow directly underneath it, which I had now destroyed. Luckily my shovel did not crush any of the 4 eyes-still-closed baby bunnies inside of it.

I reconstructed a fake burrow by cutting a black plastic nursery pot in half and then covering it with mulch. I placed the babies back inside and on advice put down markers so I could tell if the mother returned. After two days the mother had not returned so I took the babies to a local wildlife rescue place where they could be nursed. Apparently they were really closed to being weaned naturally, despite still having their eyes closed, so they had a good chance at survival I was told.

This just shows you never know what you’ll find when digging in your garden, though next time I’d rather it be gold coins.

In the place of the horrible Red Hot Poker plant I ordered something truly hot, a double echinacea called ‘Hot Papaya’. Coneflowers have a long bloom period, which I like, but I dislike the big brown center on the standard coneflower. The double varietes are like much more attractive to me and I grow one of the original pink cultivars already. I noticed my neighbor had one of these the other day, and it was doing well, and it seems like it would be the perfect plant for the spot where the kniphofia was. I had originally wanted a nicely blooming bright red perennial for that spot after all.

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