digging dog nursery mendocino coast   garden perennials from digging dog nursery

Kniphofia (Torch Lily or Red Hot Poker)
at Digging Dog

Including Kniphofia caulescens, Kniphofia galpinii, Kniphofia linearifolia, Kniphofia pauciflora, and Kniphofia uvaria

Kniphofia

Kniphofia

Torch Lily or Red Hot Poker

“Red Hot Poker” is the local nickname for these bold, handsome natives of Madagascar and tropical South Africa. Brought to England in 1707, they were kept as greenhouse treasures until 1848, when someone had the bright idea of planting them outdoors, and their abiding hardiness was discovered.

The old-fashioned orange and yellow form has survived years of neglect in abandoned gardens here on the coast; the new hybrids and species we offer, in versatile creamy yellows, chartreuses, soft melons and bolder colors, are more suitable to modern schemes, but are just as hardy and reliable. The thick, almost succulent leaf blades are evergreen, and of interest even when the cylindrical flower spikes are absent. Heat and drought tolerant.

View a slideshow of plant images from this genus


Kniphofia ‘Alcazar’  full sun

Alcazar is a Spanish translation of the Arabic word for castle, and this luscious Kniphofia deserves royal treatment for its splendid show. From a nest of lancelike leaves, chartreuse-tinted buds elongate on thick, bronzy stems to form majestic tapered spires of a dark rosy terracotta, which age to a rich salmon-orange. Pair with Cardoon for a lively tango of color and form.

Blooms July–September.

Size: 3-1/2' high x 18" wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia ‘Alcazar’ (p-0806)
Each $10.75
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Kniphofia ‘Bee’s Sunset’  full sun
Kniphofia  Bee’s Sunset

The abundant and long lasting yellow-orange flower spikes of vigorous ‘Bee’s Sunset’ will cast a warm glow on neighbors such as Buddleia crispa, Lavandula ‘Super’ and Geranium ‘Purple Pillow’.

Blooms June–August.

Size: 4' high x 3' wide; hardy to zone 5.

Kniphofia ‘Bee’s Sunset’ (p-0541)
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Kniphofia ‘Bleached Blonde’  full sun

Not all bleached blondes turn heads like this one does. Blooms of sandy blonde topped with auburn adorn this softly colored beauty. Anchored by vigorous medium green, bladelike foliage, slim 5 in. long flowers have a repeat bloom, imparting greenish yellow shades at summer’s end.

First introduced by Olympic Coast Gardens, ‘Bleached Blonde’ can be matched with Phygelius ‘Pink Elf’.

Blooms June & again in August.

Size: 3'–4' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Bleached Blonde’ (P-1117)
Each $10.00
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Kniphofia ‘Border Ballet’  full sun

Like many of the best ballet dancers, this cultivar is tall, elegant and full of stamina. We found this selection at Western Hills and have propagated it by divisions to maintain the soft dusty coral color of the flowers, which continue blooming throughout the summer. For a contrast of color and texture, we often plant this near Thalictrum rochebrunianum.

Blooms June–August.

Size: 4-1/2' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Border Ballet’ (P-0386)
Each $9.75
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Kniphofia ‘Bressingham Sunbeam’  full sun

Graceful copper-tinged stems emerge from a refined, narrow-bladed, green-gray base. Awash in yellow with amber and bronze accents, the slender sunny blooms set its diminutive silhouette aglow.

Blooms July–August.

Size: 2' high x 18" wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Bressingham Sunbeam’ (P-0707)
Each $10.00
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Kniphofia caulescens  full sun
Kniphofia caulescens

The narrow leaves of this seedling selection are in sharp contrast to the large straplike foliage typical of the species. Glaucous blue blades make a dramatic base for the subdued rainbow of earthy colors: thick, coppery flower stems, clay-colored buds and rich terracotta blooms, which eventually pale to a light greenish yellow. For more drama, plant by Caryopteris incana and Achillea ‘Inca Gold’.

Blooms July–August.

Size: 4' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 6.


Kniphofia caulescens (p-0757)
Each $11.00
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Kniphofia citrina (Lime Select)  full sun

One of our own seedling selections, this stunning form of Kniphofia citrina will surely brighten your garden with a refreshing splash of citrus color. Above clumps of glaucous leaves, the vivid lime green buds open into dense chartreuse flowers that later fade to light yellow.

Blooms June–July.

Size: 2-1/2' high x 18" wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia citrina (Lime Select) (P-0651)
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Kniphofia ‘Cobra’  full sun

Distinguished by seductive dark bronzy hues and tapered bases, this Kniphofia’s broad flower heads evoke mysterious images. As the close-knit, 6 to 10 in. long pokers mature, they gradually lighten, imparting rich copper colors and creamy yellows on sturdy stems above a coarse basal tuft of sword-shaped bluish green leaves.

A Blooms of Bressingham introduction, ‘Cobra’ promises toasty easy-to-blend shades that can be associated with Agastache ‘Black Adder’ and Eryngium bourgatii.

Blooms July–August.

Size: 3'–3-1/2' high x 2'–2-1/2' wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Cobra’ (P-0758)
Each $9.75
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Kniphofia ‘Dorset Sentry’  full sun

Counting orioles, hummingbirds, and studied gardeners among its fans, ‘Dorset Sentry’ brandishes big fat green buds and even larger plump acid yellow torches on beefy, bronze-toned upright stalks. A green bed of toothed bladelike leaves anchors the sun-struck blooms that last for months and bridge the gap between summer and fall. Selected by a John May, this moderately sized Kniphofia breathes enthused late season energy into the garden and can flank a pathway, stand sentinel at a threshold, or occupy a midborder position.

Blooms July–September.

Size: 3' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia ‘Dorset Sentry’ (P-1762)
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Kniphofia galpinii ‘Orange Flame’  full sun
Kniphofia galpinii Orange Flame

Alighting slender stems, these dainty flowers smoulder with fervent salmon and saturated orange. A foundation of finely textured grass-like foliage hosts the loosely arranged blooms, which are quieted by dusky hued unopened buds and smoky purple-tipped individual florets. Projecting a vivacious yet sophisticated demeanor, 'Orange Flame' makes a compelling container subject.

Blooms July–August.

Size: 15"–2' high x 15"–18" wide; hardy to zone 8.

Kniphofia galpinii ‘Orange Flame’ (P-1216)
Each $9.25
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Kniphofia ‘Gladness’  full sun

When the bronzed apricot buds finally unfurl into lucent golden orange torches that seem to glow from within, we promise you'll be glad. Numerous, cinnamon-toned sturdy stalks are unleashed from a midsized roost of creased grayish green leaves margined with tiny teeth. Rotund and broad in the middle, the substantial flowers convey a free wheeling radiance.

Blooms July – August

Size: 2'–3' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Gladness’ (P-1457)
Each $9.75
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Kniphofia ‘Glow’  full sun
Kniphofia  Glow

Once this Kniphofia blooms, you’ll see why it was dubbed ‘Glow’. Solidly colored coral torches honed with dark rosy overtones shine above a handsome, not–so-tall, foliar foundation distinguished by composed blue-green hues and tiny teeth along each leaf margin. Sized just right for a front row location in the border or a smaller garden. ‘Glow’ imparts a flashy propensity, especially when Geranium harveyi and Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ are planted nearby.

Blooms July-August.

Size: 2'–3' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 8.

Kniphofia ‘Glow’ (P-1272)
Each $10.00
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Kniphofia ‘Goldfinch’  full sun

Conjuring images of cheerful yellow songbirds, this spirited Kniphofia is aptly named. Rising from narrow and glaucous medium green blades, the sturdy, yet graceful stems support good-sized cylindrical blooms. Each inflorescence consists of delicate florets—long, slender and pendulous—arranged in an airy fashion. Bring a sunny lift to your summer border and site ‘Goldfinch’ by Liatris ‘Kobold’ and Salvia ‘Sensation Rose.

Blooms June–early August.

Size: 4' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia ‘Goldfinch’ (P-0947)
Each $9.75
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Kniphofia ‘Green Jade’  full sun
Kniphofia  Green Jade

Still esteemed by Beth Chatto who introduced it in 1968, this captivating Kniphofia first originated as a seedling selection in Sir Cedric Morris’s Suffolk garden. Bold long cylinders in icy lime-green shades convey a distinguished sense of composure and are without a doubt the greenest torch lily blooms we offer.

Arising from green buds above broad verdurous straps and stalwart stems, the densely packed, irresistibly colored florets are crowned with a dusky orange tuft and eventually lighten to a creamy chartreuse from the bottom up.

Blooms July – September.

Size: 4'–4-1/2' high x 2-1/2' wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Green Jade’ (p-1319)
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Kniphofia ‘Ice Queen’  full sun
Kniphofia  Ice Queen

Selected by Alan Bloom, this upright species is remarkably robust. The deep green foliage is broad and straplike, the flower stalks are thick and sturdy, and the vibrant chartreuse buds open into 6 in. lime-yellow flowers, which fade to light yellow. We plant ‘Ice Queen’ beside Anemone ‘Alice’ for an unusual but delightful combination with the late blooming pink flowers.

Blooms June–August.

Size: 4' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Ice Queen’ (p-0409)
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Kniphofia ‘Jan Brennan’  full sun

Flaunting one of the brightest, most rotund torches we have ever seen, this jaunty Kniphofia was discovered by Gretchen Hahn, a former staff member, in the backyard of a local north coast resident. Unknown to us and most likely a hybrid of Kniphofia uvaria ‘Nobilis’ which has naturalized in our area, it bears the owner’s namesake. The large radiant florets graduate in color, beginning on top with a salmon hue that shades to tangerine and then transmutes to antique gold supported by a lemon-yellow base.

Bolstered on bronzed olive-tinted stems above brawny medium green leaves, the exuberant display can be staged alongside Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ for unbridled oohs and awhs!

Blooms August – September.

Size: 3' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia ‘Jan Brennan’ (P-1341)
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Kniphofia ‘Light of the World’  full sun

An illustrious contender for the late season border, ‘Light of the World’ boasts showy, long slender torches. Green-tinged buds open to reveal dainty flared, pendulous florets lit in lucent tangerine orange shades. Pointed, low growing grassy leaves with pale midribs ground this small-statured, first-rate Kniphofia, which can be granted a front row seat accompanied by Nepeta ‘Little Trudy’.

Blooms September.

Size: 2' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia ‘Light of the World’ (P-1655)
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Kniphofia linearifolia  full sun
Kniphofia linearifolia

Large, pumpkin-colored flower buds seem to glow atop the thick purplish stems of this robust species. Visually supported by broad straplike foliage, the enormous, nearly round orange flowers eventually fade to yellow at the base. Combine with Aster ‘Lady in Black’ and Salvia ‘Limelight’ for a stunning display of purple, chartreuse and orange.

Blooms August–September.

Size: 6' high x 4' wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia linearifolia (p-0653)
Each $10.00
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Kniphofia ‘Lye End’  full sun
Kniphofia  Lye End

This toasty-hued, perky cultivar first caught our eye at Cotswald Garden Flowers, owned by Bob Brown, England’s renown Kniphofia enthusiast. It has since become one of our favorites for its long and slender, loosely set racemes. Tipped with burnt coral tones, the blooms fade to melon in the middle and finally brighten to a creamy yellowish sherbet base, which features larger, more pendant florets. The colorful splendor bursts forth from earthy red and greenish-tinged buds elevated on supple, slightly bronzed stems above green foliage.

Blooms July–August.

Size: 3' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia ‘Lye End’ (P-1273)
Each $10.00
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Kniphofia ‘Minister Verschuur’  full sun
Kniphofia  Minister Verschuur

With ample-sized blossoms and a medium-sized profile, this exuberant Kniphofia is ideal for smaller gardens. Stiff jade-toned narrow blades and lusty bronze green stems support moss-hued tapering buds and bright yellow flowers. A subtle apricot cast suffuses the lit up torches, which feature pendulous evenly spaced close-set florets and promise a colorful presence throughout most of the summer.

Blooms June–July.

Size: 2'–2-1/2' high x 18"–2' wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Minister Verschuur’ (P-1704)
Each $9.75
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Kniphofia ‘Nancy’s Red’  full sun
Kniphofia  Nancy’s Red

Looking for a midsized plant to accentuate a hot-colored border or ignite a cooler one? ‘Nancy’s Red’ may be your girl. Delicate olive-green stems lift brick-red buds and waxed, dusky coral-red florets, which become more pendulous with age, flaring out to reveal creamy yellow tips. Shaded in such rich colors, the slender, somewhat open cone-shaped blooms achieve an ardent contrast against low growing, narrow green leaves.

Clearly in a class of her own—undemanding, flamboyant yet refined and well groomed—Nancy gives you good reason to entice her into your garden bed and keep her where she’s easily seen.

Blooms July–August.

Size: 2' high x 18" wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Nancy’s Red’ (P-1385)
Each $9.75
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Kniphofia x ‘Naudes Nek’  full sun

We found this upbeat, not-yet-identified Kniphofia at Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne’s Northwest Garden Nursery in Eugene, Oregon. Originating from seed they had collected in Naudes Nek, a rather cold region of South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountains, it conveys a lighthearted charm with narrow, bright green channelled foliage and an intriguing floral display. Round-tipped, squat buds exhibit a glowing potpourri of colors from top to bottom: earthy brownish orange with chartreuse tinges, an amber midsection and a golden yellow base. The buoyant blooms elongate on slender green stems and turn more tangerine as they mature, showing off a happy face amid Thymus ‘Archer’s Gold’ and Geums.

Blooms August.

Size: 4' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia x ‘Naudes Nek’ (P-1387)
Each $9.50
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Kniphofia ‘Painted Lady’  full sun

Upstaging many a perennial in the summer border, this svelte temptress celebrates AGM status, sophisticated hues and a refined stance. Burnt coral buds offer a surprise as they elongate to narrow, 7 in. long cream-colored spears that subtly transmute warm orange and amber shades near their tops.

Bred by Eric Smith at Buckshaw Gardens, ‘Painted Lady’s long blooming gala is supported by strong bronzy green stems and a lower growing green base.

Blooms June – August.

Size: 3' high x 2-1/2' wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia ‘Painted Lady’ (P-1656)
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Kniphofia pauciflora  full sun

Originally inhabiting the marshy grasslands of Kwazula-Natal, South Africa, this Ariel-like Kniphofia is sadly extinct in its wild haunts, but will gladly impart a lighthearted smile to your landscape.

Slim grassy blades folded along the midribs are the understory for airy and slender, buttercup yellow pokers. Tubular, flared and widely spaced, the dainty pendant florets open from coral buds for several months, then rebloom later in the season.

Blooms June–July.

Size: 18" high x 15" wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia pauciflora (p-1456)
Each $9.00
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Kniphofia ‘Percy’s Pride’  full sun
Kniphofia  Percy’s Pride

The tightly clustered light yellow to lime flowers of this Torch Lily are just about the largest of all the species we offer. They bloom several times each year, and contrast strikingly with the inch-wide straplike leaves. For a range of yellows, we plant ‘Percy’s Pride’ with Symphytum ‘Axminster Gold’.

Blooms May–June.

Size: 3' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Percy’s Pride’ (P-0205)
Each $11.50
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Kniphofia ‘Safranvogel’  full sun
Kniphofia  Safranvogel

Uniquely infused with a strawberry hue, the slender, creamy tapers of bloom are anchored by thin grassy green blades. ‘Safranvogel’s distinctive coloring and small stance begs for an up-front position in the border.

Blooms July–August.

Size: 2' high x 20" wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia ‘Safranvogel’ (P-0946)
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Kniphofia ‘Safranvogel’ x ‘Maid of Orleans’  full sun

We have British Kniphofia aficionado, Bob Brown of Cotswald Garden Flowers to thank for this ethereal beauty. Staged on lithe bronzed stems, the distinctive flowers feature widely spaced, rich reddish coral florets, each narrow, pendulous tube tinged yellow at the base and curved up at the tips.

The aging long, slender blooms lighten and become even more open, attaining an unmatched delicacy and lovely subtle coloration that’s reminiscent of its ‘Safranvogel’ heritage. Quiet, sublime and almost other-worldly, this unusual cross is shown to best effect when planted in multiples against a dark background.

Blooms July–August.

Size: 2' high x 15" wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia ‘Safranvogel’ x ‘Maid of Orleans’ (P-1386)
Each $10.50
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Kniphofia ‘Shining Sceptre’  full sun
Kniphofia  Shining Sceptre

Noble stands of copper-tinted golden scepters command our attention in the midsummer border. Supported by soothing green blades and lengthy bronze-hued stems, these thickset, good-sized blooms cast lambent accents upon the cool, blue-violet blooms of Aconitum ‘Arendsii’ and Geranium renardii ‘Phillipe Vapelle’.

Blooms July–August.

Size: 4' high x 18"–2' wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Shining Sceptre’ (p-1187)
Each $9.75
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Kniphofia sp. (Patricia Marrow)  full sun

When we came across this extraordinary Kniphofia in Patricia Marrow’s garden in Somerset, England, it was mysteriously unlabeled. Stout, bronzy flowering stems with lime-colored buds rise above rosettes of narrow grayish green foliage. Lively and large, the greenish yellow blooms are tipped with a dusky melon color, and eventually fade to creamy white from the base up.

Blend with Nepeta ‘Pool Bank’, Cistus ‘Anne Palmer’ and Euphorbia ‘Great Dixter’ for a vibrant spectrum of color.

Blooms July–August.

Size: 4' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia sp. (Patricia Marrow) (p-0759)
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Kniphofia uvaria ‘Candle Light’  full sun
Kniphofia uvaria Candle Light

Sun-kissed torches, a compact habit and an exceptionally long flowering period earn this well-mannered Kniphofia a chance to illuminate our border. Verdant low growing foliage makes a fine textured base for supple green stalks and green-tinged yellow buds, which mature into splendid 5 in. blooms, creamy yellow on top and alabaster white below.

Introduced by Georgia’s Richard Saul, small-statured ‘Candle Light’ can be showcased in the frontlines along with Echinops ‘Blue Glow’ for a spirited match. (pp#12,342)

Blooms May – October.

Size: 2'–2-1/2' high x 2'–2-1/2' wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia uvaria ‘Candle Light’ (P-1569)
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Kniphofia uvaria ‘Malibu Yellow’  full sun
Kniphofia uvaria Malibu Yellow

Shouldered by thick green stalks, the richly colored, bright yellow blooms combine with this Kniphofia’s robust stature to bestow a grandiose presence in the border. Composed of large, pendulous, evenly spaced florets that open from grassy green buds, the ample-sized torches radiate unforgettable, look-at-me, sunlit chroma, while topping sprightly green, strapping blades.

Blooms May–July.

Size: 3' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia uvaria ‘Malibu Yellow’ (p-1292)
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Kniphofia uvaria ‘Tower of Gold’  full sun  new plant

Famed horticulturist Luther Burbank, gardening at his residence in Santa Rosa, California until 1926, selected this golden beacon that's guaranteed to brighten summer's end. A verdant stocky thicket of upright dark green foliar blades hurls forth strong olive bronze stems and big plump pokers. The gregarious densely set blooms first emerge with a lime-infused somewhat triangular shape, then take on rich yellow hues and a rounder appearance upon maturity. Cohorts such as Helianthus 'Dakota Queen' or Artemisia 'Huntington Gardens' make for a statuesque pageant.

Blooms July–September.

Size: 4'–5' high x 2-1/2'–3' wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia uvaria ‘Tower of Gold’ (P-1808)
Each $9.75
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Kniphofia ‘Vanilla’  full sun
Kniphofia  Vanilla Kniphofia  Vanilla

Slender blooms in a soft shade of pale yellow are staged well above finely textured foliage. This courtly Kniphofia echoes ornamental grasses such as Panicum and makes a friendly color-mate for Eupatoriums and Geraniums.

Blooms July–September.

Size: 3' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 6.


Kniphofia ‘Vanilla’ (P-0240)
Each $9.00
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Kniphofia ‘Wayside Flame’  full sun

Like a candle flame, this flower is both bright and yet soft orange. To give our summer garden warm accents, we plant robust ‘Wayside Flame’ near Lavandula ‘Silver Frost’.

Blooms June–August.

Size: 4-1/2' high x 2' wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Wayside Flame’ (p-0410)
Each $9.50
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Kniphofia ‘Wol’s Red Seedling’  full sun

The superb scarlet-red blooms of this British raised cultivar are deemed the deepest and darkest red of all Kniphofia blooms in cultivation. A gorgeous profusion of slender fiery hued flowers enlivens the landscape all summer long, while the bushy small-sized mound of shiny dark green grassy blades assures a refined habit that easily tucks into space thrifty gardens.

Blooms June–August.

Size: 2' high x 18" wide; hardy to zone 7.

Kniphofia ‘Wol’s Red Seedling’ (P-1763)
Each $9.75
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Kniphofia ‘Yellow Cheer’  full sun

Bolstered by hefty, tall and straight asparagus-hued stalks, dense yellowish orange buds, infused with chartreuse, remind us of miniature Christmas trees. Radiant yellows, pumpkin colors and lime tinges meld an unparalleled luminosity as the gorgeous torches stand sentinel, their plump rounded bases tapering to blunt tips well above a bright green, upright clump of strapping, deeply furrowed lax leaves.

A robust specimen for the fall garden, ‘Yellow Cheer’s late season effervescence steals the show, especially when staged against a dark green foil. One per customer.

Blooms late August to mid-October.

Size: 5' high x 3' wide; hardy to zone 8.

Kniphofia ‘Yellow Cheer’ (p-1458)
Each $11.00
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Kniphofia ‘Yellow Hammer’  full sun  new plant

This rarely offered Kniphofia is a favorite of songbirds and hummingbirds, and is earlier to bloom than most Torch Lilies. Large nectar-rich, well-formed lemon yellow heads unfurl from acid green buds on tall sturdy stalks above an easily maintained medium green bed of narrow arching evergreen foliage. 'Yellow Hammer', possibly named after a small Eurasian yellow-breasted bird, can be nestled alongside Euphorbia 'John Tomlinson' for foliar contrast and melding flower colors.

Blooms late May–June.

Size: 3'–3-1/2' high x 18" wide; hardy to zone 6.

Kniphofia ‘Yellow Hammer’ (P-1809)
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Latest News

Fall Dog-Gone Online Plant Sale

Enjoy a special savings and get a jumpstart on your fall planting! Our online sale includes 3 ship dates only, beginning August 26 and ending on September 9. 15% discount for online plant purchases of $100.00 or more that are shipped during the period between August 26 and September 9. All ordered items must be in-stock. If you’re not quite ready to plant, or wish to receive your plants at a later date, you can order a Gift Certificate that’s worth $100.00 for only $85.00! Mention code FALL JUMPSTART in the "Customer notes" section of your order.

Saturday Stroll & Plant Chat

Sip lemonade & take home great gardening tips!
September 6
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Saturday Stroll & Plant Chat

Sip lemonade & take home great gardening tips!
September 20
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Fall Dog-Gone Super Plant Sale

Stroll Digging Dog Nursery's beautiful gardens and save on a wide array of easy-to-grow garden plants, including many rare beauties and water-wise toughies.
October 10, 11, and 12. 10am-5pm.

August Newsletter

Can you Dig It?

An E-newsletter from Digging Dog Nursery

August–October, 2014 .

Straight from the Border

Tips that may help your landscape survive out-of-the ordinary weather!

Has the weather in your area been more extreme this past year? Maybe you’re noticing increased rainfall, polar-cold winters or hot parched summers. If so, we’ve put together an enticing selection of hale and hearty plants that not only tolerate, but actually thrive in tough situations. We’ve also included some cultural practices that we’ve found helpful over the years.

  • If you are in the midst of a drought, you might consider applying a heavy mulch or adding organic matter to a garden bed to help retain moisture. Watering in the evening or at night, in addition to less frequent, heavier waterings will reduce water usage. In dire situations, perennials, grasses and even some shrubs can be pruned back. This won’t harm them in any way and will greatly diminish their water needs.
  • To improve drainage in overly moist areas, you may wish to create a raised planting bed, incorporating a sandy loam. Be sure to position the crown of your plants right at soil level or slightly above. Planting them too deep allows moisture to accumulate at the base of the plant, which can lead to rot.
  • When preparing for an extra cold winter, certain plants may benefit by an early August pruning rather than later in the fall. This ensures enough time for the pruned tips to harden off and for some new growth to push. Allowing the spent stems to remain standing atop perennials will shelter their crowns on those frosty nights. A fast draining mulch may also increase cold tolerance. Reemay, a sheer fabric which water can penetrate, or even an old wool coat or blanket can be draped over your plants, raising the temperature a few precious degrees during an occasional, unanticipated cold snap.

Who ever said gardening was for the faint-at-heart? When contemplating our leafy havens, it’s important to anticipate the unexpected, embrace change and remember there’s always next year. Our gardens promote hope, possibility and promise. As long as we possess cheerful resignation, an adventuresome spirit and a sense of humor, we’ll be satisfied gardeners.

Sun-loving, water thrifty toughies:

  • Argyrocytisus battandieri
    Hailing from North Africa’s Atlas Mountains and sadly rare in cultivation, this RHS award winning, vigorous small tree boasts an extraordinary appearance that understates its surprising hardiness. Large, erect cone-shaped clusters with dense pineapple-scented lemon-yellow flowers festoon the velvety gray-green trifoliate leaves. Evergreen in milder climates, Pineapple Broom’s upright yet relaxed looking bushy habit injects a sumptuous dose of summer cheer to a warm wall, seating area or the backside of a mixed planting. It relishes regular pruning and good drainage, endures deer, poor soil, heat and dry conditions, and thankfully will not reseed. Hardy to zone 7. (T-0275)
  • cistus anne palmerCistus ‘Anne Palmer’
    Silvery pink, crepe-paper like petals float over this evergreen shrub’s ripple-edged gray-green foliage. Equally at home in tough coastal or inland environments. Hardy to zone 8. (S-0187)
  • cistus snow fireCistus ‘Snow Fire’
    Regarded by Eric Sammons as perhaps the most successful of his unreleased hybrids, this well-bred Cistus claims Cistus populifolius subsp. major and Cistus inflatus as its parents. ‘Snow Fire’ closely resembles ‘Snow White’, except for a slightly smaller, more spreading stance and its decorated blooms, whose blazing marks undoubtedly kindled the “fire” in this cultivar’s name. Dainty white overlapping petals surround a golden eye, and each is brushed by a prominent burgundy-red patch at its base. The bright green, wavy-edged leaves and reddish stems respond quite well to pruning. Blooms April–August. Hardy to zone 8. (S-0560)
  • Eragrostis chloromelas
    Blue Lovegrass
    Witness the ethereal haze of sheer amber-colored panicles floating on lax 3 ft. stalks over long fine cut powdery blue blades and you’ll see why we love this gorgeous South African denizen. The flowing warm season mound spreads slowly over time, while the gauzy inflorescences tantalize birds, butterflies and the rest of us through early winter. Appreciative of fast draining locations, Blue Lovegrass makes a sterling drought tolerant specimen or mass planting. Flank with Pennisetum spathiolatum and tall Molinias, and intersperse Sanguisorba ‘Chocolate Tip’ or Aster ‘Blue Danube’ for a spectacular painterly effect. Blooms June–November. Zone 6/7. (G-0540)
  • Eryngium planum ‘Silver Salentino’
    A snowy white multitude of plump conical flower heads perch atop pointed, widely spaced silver bracts. Leafy multi branching stems, pearly hued and steadfast, bolster the luminous blooms, while arising from an attractive dark green basal rosette defined by serrated leather like leaves and red-tinted petioles. Pair ‘Silver Salentino’ with Eryngium ‘Blue Glitter’ for a classic look. Blooms July – September. Hardy to zone 4. (P-1493)
  • Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii ‘John Tomlinson’
    A selection made from wild seed collected in the former Yugoslavia by the namesake, this charismatic Euphorbia is esteemed for its handsome compact profile and glowing yellow-green conical inflorescences. Large rounded and broad heads taper towards the base while housing crowded bell-shaped flowers. Hardy to zone 7. (P-1338)
  • Festuca mairei
    Indigenous to Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, this long lived cold hardy grass sprouts a gracefully arching fountain distinguished by handsome khaki-tinged gray-green blades. Taller than most Festucas, Atlas has quickly earned the reputation as one of the finest large area ground covers, proving indispensable for mass plantings on slopes, in mixed borders or natural style meadows. Evergreen where winters are mild and remarkably drought tolerant, its reliable good looking mound relishes occasional waterings and doesn’t require a trim, only a little raking. Hardy to zone 4. (g-0488)
  • Genista aetnensis
    Discovered on the lava-strewn slopes of Italy’s Mt. Etna, this fantastic large shrub or small tree hosts sparsely arranged tiny green leaves and round arching slender green stems, creating an airy semitransparent effect. A fragrant sun-struck explosion of copious bright yellow pea-shaped flowers bedazzles its graceful narrow frame, which casts little shade and never overwhelms. Well-suited for lean, yet sharply draining soil, easily grown Genista aetnensis can take intense sun and heat, requires very little water, especially summer irrigation, will not reseed unlike its ill-mannered cousins and imparts untold elegance to a warm sheltered spot. Zone 7/8. (S-0761)
  • merrist wood creamx Halimiocistus wintonensis ‘Merrist Wood Cream’
    Lovely, yet tough and drought resistant, x Halimiocistus is a cross between the genera Halimium and Cistus. This demure evergreen cultivar was raised at Merrist Wood Horticultural College in 1970. Its low spreading form hosts soft yellow flowers embellished with wine-red spots at the base of each petal and narrow gray-green leaves. Hardy to zone 7. (S-0044)
  • Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant’
    Paper-thin, bright orange-red blooms make a toasty statement against a bed of gray-green leaves. Blooms May–July. Hardy to zone 4. (P-0943)
  • Lavandula angustifolia ‘Ellagance Purple’
    Introduced by Kieft Seeds of the Netherlands, this fantastic 2008 Fleuroselect Gold Medal winner offers a perfumed plethora of large vivid purple-blue flower spikes bolstered by swank silver-green slender leaves. ‘Ellagance Purple’ achieves an impeccable well-branched mound, that is compact and just right for nestling into tight spots. Hardy to zone 5. (S-0767)
  • Lavandula angustifolia ‘Thumbelina Leigh’
    First spotted by Kiwis Elsie and Brian Hall as a markedly unique seedling in a bed of Lavandula angustifolia ’Hidcote’, ’Thumbelina Leigh’ is distinctive for its compact spherical habit and short sturdy well-branched flower wands, offering a vibrant highly aromatic profusion of dense two-toned blooms. The sweet smelling rounded blossoms feature deep purple pubescent calyxes plus large corollas, colored both a bright violet-blue and dark lavender-violet. A stellar addition to path edges, the rockery, knot gardens and containers, the small impeccably formed gray-green mound celebrates a flowery encore if you shear one-third of its mass after the first bloom. Hardy to zone 5. (S-0776)
  • Marrubium supinum
    Soft-as-velvet, crinkle-edged and reminiscent of scallop shells, the diminutive rounded leaves are ash green on top and a fuzzy frosted celadon below. Tightset textural foliage and downy white stems weave a low, pearl-hued cushion-like mat that stages leafy flower stems with whorled, small rosy mauve blooms. Possessing an unwavering tenacity, this good-looking evergreen ground cover cavorts throughout southern Spain and northwest Africa, and can charm a niche in the rockery or along a path in your garden. Blooms June–July. Hardy to zone 6. (P-1765)
  • origanum libanoticumOriganum x ‘Amethyst Falls’
    Esteemed plantsman and Bluebird Nursery owner Harlan Hamernik selected this Origanum for its exceptional floral detail. Aromatic, glaucous green-gray leaves compile a shapely drought resistant bed that unleashes large pendant sprays distinguished by extravagant quantities of layered chartreuse bracts and small, protruding vivid amethyst flowers. Delivering an unparalleled, several month showing, the rotund conelike blooms can be left to promote winter hardiness, and staged in a container or easy-to-see spot with a sunny southwestern exposure and quick draining soil. Hardy to zone 5. (P-1464)
  • Origanum libanoticum
    Embellished by small rose-pink flowers, droves of stacked, overlapping pale green and blush-colored bracts look like slender papery ornaments. Exceptional in dried arrangements, these large decorative blooms hang from the tips of long, wiry, arching stems, loosely lined with smooth, nearly round, green leaves. A little more upright and more open than ‘Kent Beauty’, this captivating Origanum deserves a spot where it can be easily cherished. Hardy to zone 6. (P-1220)
  • Pennisetum spathiolatum
    Slender Veldt Grass
    A denizen of South Africa, this drought tolerant evergreen grass has low growing, narrow dark green blades that provide a verdant contrast to its tawny colored tapers. The dense, abundantly produced inflorescences hover on jointed nearly invisible stems, some 2 to 3 ft. tall, while fashioning a delightful see-through veil. Especially mesmerizing when grouped in a dry creek bed, a meadow or a water wise garden, the Slender Veldt Grass asks only for a well drained abode. Blooms June – October. Zone 6/7. (G-0511)
  • Sedum spurium ‘Voodoo’
    There’s no escaping the spell that these devilishly handsome dark leaves and neon bright blooms will cast on you. Topped with a rosy red summertime icing of tiny star-shaped flowers arranged in 4-branched clusters, the rich mahogany red foliage is thick, obovate and toothed at the tips, while shrouding merlot-infused trailing stems. ‘Voodoo’ conjures a short trouble free carpet-like ground cover that relishes sandy or rocky soil, stays evergreen in milder climates, detests over watering and abates erosion. Hardy to zone 3. (P-1776)
  • Sedum telephium ‘Karfunkelstein’
    Fancied as one of the rising stars at the 2006 RHS Sedum Trials, this exceptional Ernest Pagels prodigy has a dainty demeanor. Copious rose red buds and small dusky pink flower heads crest a close-knit sea of upright multibranched green stems infused with lavish beet red shades. Ideal for gardens where space is scarce, the short stalwart stalks never flop and are clad in toothed gray-green spoon-shaped leaves with slate purple overtones. Hardy to zone 4. (P-1717)

Moisture aficionados:

  • Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’
    A statuesque beauty, ‘Venusta’ is distinguished by huge, fluffy cloudlike plumes painted with soft salmon pinks floating above a good-sized, leafy mass of upright stems and jagged, Maple-shaped foliage. Forging an impressive stand in a moist well drained setting, Meadow Sweet seldom needs staking, and makes an airy partner for Trollius ‘ Superbus’. Blooms July–August. Hardy to zone 4. (P-1024)
  • ligularia rocketLigularia stenocephala ‘The Rocket’
    While stenocephala refers to the “narrow-headed flower,” ‘The Rocket’ sums up even better the form of this Ligularia, as well as the charged energy it inspires. The large leaves are kelly-green, heart-shaped, and feature coarsely serrated margins. Strong shoots emerge in the spring, which unfurl to create an underlayer of verdant leaves for the clear yellow racemes to blast through on their way to altitudes of 5 ft. Striking and easily grown, it will sparkle in a wooded setting with Rodgersia nearby, or at water’s edge. Blooms July–August. Hardy to zone 5. (P-0101)
  • lysimachia aureumLysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’
    Golden Creeping Jenny
    Native to Europe and Russia, Golden Creeping Jenny has naturalized in North America. Bearing tiny, bright yellow flowers, it creates a striking understory of round, golden foliage and, if planted at the edge of a pond, will reach into the water like rays of sunlight. For stunning contrast, place near plants with purple foliage. Blooms April–September. Hardy to zone 5. (P-0545)
  • rodgersiaRodgersia aesculifolia
    Fingerleaf Rodgersia
    Rodgersias are fine architectural specimens characterized by brownish black, fleshy rhizomes and large textured leaves spreading to a foot across, so be sure to provide these plants with plenty of space. Similar to the palmate leaves of Horse Chestnut, the crinkled foliage of this species is tinted bronze and heavily veined. The 7 leaflets radiate from the center and shaggy brown hair covers the loosely branched stalks, which hold pyramidal flowers, ranging in color from porcelain white to muted pink. Blooms June–mid-August. Hardy to zone 5. (P-0311)
  • Salvia uliginosa
    Bog Sage
    Uliginosa means “of the marshes”, in this case those between the forests of southern Brazil and Argentina’s fertile pampas. Eye-catching white flecked azure blue flowers soar atop slender branching stems lined with narrow lance-shaped green leaves. A quick-to-establish colonizing perennial, Bog Sage presents an airy, strong and erect habit that doesn’t need staking and flourishes in moist niches along streams or ponds and in ordinary garden conditions, even tolerating heavy or dry soil. For a spectacular effect, plant it alongside Anemone ’Andrea Atkinson’. Blooms August–October. Hardy to zone 6. (P-0997)
  • Tricyrtis ‘Empress’
    Renowned for its extra large and wider open flowers, this exquisite, newly introduced Toad Lily is a formosana hybrid. Ornate, spidery spaced petals are inscribed by occasional darkened tips and irregular velvet-rich deep purple spots, stipples and mottling on a creamy white background. An enticing fall beacon amongst the shadows, ‘Empress’s showy terminal blooms are supported by an upright robust gathering of lustrous, semi-clasping dark green foliage that stays dapper all season. Blooms August – September. Hardy to zone 5. (P-1469)

Stalwart plants undaunted by subzero weather:

  • Achillea filipendulina ‘Parker’s Variety’
    A well-loved garden mainstay, this steadfast AGM recipient features dense golden floral plates, rising like harvest moons, on stout upright leafy stems above a handsome pewter green mound of deeply dissected aromatic foliage. Grateful for lean somewhat dry sites, ‘Parker’s Variety’ asserts a regal stature and richly colored corymbs with complementary accents amid blue flowering neighbors such as Salvia ‘Nekan’ or Agapanthus ‘Storm Cloud’. Blooms June–August. Hardy to zone 3. (P-0004)
  • Aster novae-angliae ‘Harrington’s Pink’
    New England Aster
    Celebrated by Graham Stuart Thomas for conveying “much garden charm,” this well-loved Aster’s attraction is her pink flowers and her tall profile. Lavish quantities of delicate gold-centered daisies house nearly 50 layered, extra fine rays each, while cresting thick, straight, somewhat woody branched stalks. Bred by Mr. Hilliard from Williamsburg, Iowa, the robust, grayish green clump crowded with stem-clasping, bristle-rough, 4 to 5 in. long leaves tolerates wet soil and some shade, resists mildew and can accompany Sedum ‘Indian Chief’ and blue blooming Asters. Blooms August – September. Hardy to zone 3. (p-1426)
  • bergeniaBergenia ‘Magic Giant’
    Big varnished rosettes of thick, extra large rounded evergreen foliage beams purplish bronze colors that indeed work magic on a bleak winter landscape. A verdant foil the rest of the year, dark green leaves reach up to a foot long and 9 in. across, while supporting dense rosy pink flower clusters, defined by red centers, white stamens and open starry faces on stout wine-hued stems. Bedazzled with jewel tones and texture galore, this hybrid Bergenia crafts an exceptional, easy care ground cover for moist poorly drained banks, stream sides or borders. Blooms April–May. Hardy to zone 3. (P-1747)
  • Clematis ‘Pamiat Serdtsa’
    (Integrifolia group)
    With a name that translates “memory of the heart,” this vine’s floral elegance is hard to forget. Long blooming and satin sheened, the rich colored heliotrope purple blooms show off darker, glossier midribs. Caught in a partially open, spirited flounce that surrounds pale yellow anthers, the 3 in. long tepals are sometimes twisted and irregularly edged. ‘Pamiat Serdtsa’s sturdy herbaceous shoots will climb and saunter but not cling, while slightly nodding blooms pose suspended from subtly crooked stems. Developed at the Ukraine’s Nikita Botanic Garden, she etches an exquisite juxtaposition of color when meandering up through Spiraea ‘Ogon’ in the mixed border. Blooms July–September. Hardy to zone 3. (T-0243)
  • Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’
    Red Osier Dogwood
    With common names like Hart’s Rouges, Kinnikinnik and Shoemack, who would expect this North American riparian native to be a vibrant beauty igniting the winter landscape? ‘Cardinal’ sculpts an unflappable, extremely cold-hardy multi-stemmed shrub that has a lot to offer: fiery red-hued stems in winter, flat-topped clusters of petite white flowers in spring, creamy white summertime fruit, and dark green deciduous foliage manifesting a purple-red fall display. Beloved by gardeners, birds and the azure butterfly, the Red Osier Dogwood prefers rich, somewhat moist soil, but tolerates a variety of sites and can be ensconced near Acer griseum for an intriguing blend of colors and textures. Trim roots to remove unwanted suckers and prune 30% of the old wood in early spring to stimulate brilliant new growth. Blooms August – September. Hardy to zone 3. (S-0733)
  • Panicum amarum ‘Dewey Blue’
    Bitter Switch Grass
    Populating Delaware’s coastal sand dunes near the town of Dewey, noted grass expert, Rick Darke selected this kingly Panicum for its blue, oh-so-blue smooth glaucous blades and elegant fountain like stance. Distinctive straight-up stems bolster light airy plumes, followed by caramel-colored seed heads persisting well into winter. ‘Dewey Blue’ is not only a stunning showman but an enduring workhorse whose slowly spreading rhizomes form clumps that are vital in stabilizing seashore ecosystems, as well as withstanding hot dry summers and varied garden soils. Blooms August – October. Hardy to zone 3. (G-0500)
  • Persicaria affinis ‘Dimity’
    Himalayan Fleeceflower
    he deep green leaves of this graceful ground cover turn a rich brown during the winter and form a thick mat over a few seasons. The jointed, wine-red stems pick up the accents in the white and crimson flowers which are arranged, lavender like, along dense 2 to 3 in. terminal spikes held over a foot above the foliage. As the blooms mature, they darken to a crimson-rose shade, and finally end their days colored a rich rusty brown. Blooms late May–September. Hardy to zone 3. (P-0250)

Current Staff’s Favorite Plant

staff favorite plant

Digging Dog's plant of the week...Hydrangea paniculata 'Unique' (S-0348)!- Everyone here at DD loves this hydrangea for its glamorous, late season beauty queen appeal. Left to its own designs, this vigorous Hydrangea has a natural upright and arching form, but it also responds well to pruning, making ‘Unique’ an effective choice where space is scarce.

The immense flower heads are spectacular and abundant, and true to name are unique in shape, being quite broad at the base and bluntly rounded at the tip. They begin the season a creamy white and gradually darken to a buff pink.

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