Garden to Vase, Baptisia Australis

Baptisia Australis, better known as Wild Indigo.
This pic was taken before the morning sun hits this spot in the garden.

One summer day early in my gardening career, my husband came out to check on me. Noting that I have a lot of flowers he asked,

"why don't you bring them in the house?"

Thus began my weekly ritual of making an arrangement using only what grows in my garden. It usually rests on the console in the foyer.

Baptisia, more commonly known as False Indigo, was last week's floral.

"Mom, I mean this in the best way possible, it's too perfect." 

This tradition predates my first digital camera so there are no pics prior to 2010. Photographing the garden and the arrangements morphed from a small role in the ritual to borderline obsession.

As obsessions go, it is mostly benign.

Baptisia is one of the few perennials that look great in the vase and all season long in the garden. The foliage is interesting and holds its color up till frost.

Given a sunny spot, a mature specimen can reach over 3' with a 4' spread (I like big plants). Deer ignore it (major plus in our area). Bees enjoy the open blossoms which resemble Sweet Peas. Established plants do not require a lot of water. Thrives in many zones.

All in all, a great architectural addition for any garden.

Dogwood in the background, roses in the foreground.

The down side is dividing. A three year old can easily achieve a 4' wingspan. The tough fibrous roots grip the earth and spread out towards the drip line, some burrowing down a foot.

Q: what is the volume of a 4' cylinder with a 1 foot depth?

A: enough for a backhoe.

The mother plant has been divided several times. 
She is now too big to dig up.

It is tempting to dig a smaller hole, break the roots and get on with it. Your Baptisia will wilt pitifully and look ill for weeks, maybe all summer. Or worst case, all hope lost, Baptisia refuses drink and dies. This tragic scenario sends the wrong message. Roses are particularly susceptible to anxiety disorders and will fret till first frost convinced they are next.

I learned to shade my transplanted and well watered Baptisia with an umbrella for several days. Yes, it looks insane to have umbrellas propped over plants in the garden. Your neighbors will think you are a bit odd. Mine are used to such goings on, they no longer ask about my gardening practices.

Two more intrepid kids orbit further out on the garden's edge.

Barbara, the delightful gardener and author of Silver in the Barn has yellow Baptisia in her garden. I wonder if there is a white variety? I wonder if the yellows and whites are stilled called False Indigo?

Do you have this lovely plant in your garden?

I've collected some of the better foyer arrangements on my imaginataively named pinterest board, The Foyer Project. Here's a sample. I had forgotten what my foyer looked like 5 years ago.

A small blue oil painting hangs above the console.

A year later I swapped the blue oil for a botanical print from my daughter.

Another year later the botanical is swapped for a mirror. I added a lamp (the shade is just visible in the upper left). 
The lamp has a 9.5 watt LED bulb which sheds surprisingly pleasant light, not harsh in the least.
The ceiling fixture has eight 20 watt bulbs, 160 watts total. 
The lamp uses 94% LESS electricity than the ceiling fixture for the same amount of light.

Late Summer 2013 I swapped the Chippendale chair for a Regency. I love the Regency chair.

Dogwood, daisies, pink roses. Dogwood is the hardest flower to arrange.



Hope you enjoy my pinterest board, The Foyer Project.

Thanks for indulging me,
Linda Pakravan


  1. Hi Linda - Welcome back!! I've missed you. Your baptisias are so lush and beautiful. All of mine need dividing....they are huge! I have one in white and many in blue-purple. My phlox are blooming now - they make great cut flowers, too. Cheers

    1. It's good to be back! So there is a white baptisia! I'd love to see more pics of your garden. Here's to a happy summer!

  2. Love your floral arrangements! I bought several baptisias (in small 3 inch pots) two years ago. They are now huge!!!! It is an early bloomer in my Southern garden. My blooms are long gone, but I am still enjoying the silvery-green foliage. You have inspired me to bring the blooms in my house next year!

    1. Wow! Just two years and they are huge!?! Takes a lot longer up here. You must be a master gardener. Glad you stopped by!

  3. Beautiful plant, but here in California we'd have to use salvias for a similar effect. Drought, drought, drought.

  4. Anonymous29.6.15

    I returned from my trip to find my yellow baptisia is now the size of VW Beetle. Something must be done immediately. But the tap root, Linda, the durn tap root. I'm sure it is halfway to Japan by now. What's a girl to do?

    1. Welcome back! I hope we'll be reading about your adventures soon!

  5. Beautiful! You have given me a new idea: I need baptisia ASAP!!!!!

    1. Glad I could spark an idea! Baptisia is a great plant!


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