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Indigofera amblyantha is not usually the first choice in the genus for an ornamental shrub. This 6 foot tall, airy shrub is more erect than many of the genus as are the miniature vertical racemes. They rise into the air and point with real beauty. The colors vary by nature from light to rich pink with var. purdomii being lilac-pink and larger-flowered. If one needs to name a strain or clone I'd like to start with this charming, very compatible pale pink sort.

The species, named by Craib, came to the west from Hupeh in 1907 (Wilson) and Kansu in 1913 (Purdom). Like so many other new woodies it was Veitch who made it known in European gardens or at least in their better collections.

Seen here at the Hampton Roads/Tidewater Arboretum blooming wildly in late August 2003 I was immediately smitten. The look is quite different, at least at this time of year. This is one Indigofera that is not going to be confused with a "pretty weed". It is open and airy but it exudes real class - and class is something missing in so many of the woody or semi-woody members of the legume family.

New to me in full flowering reality, I was not surprised to read now with new comprehension that W.J. Bean wrote nice things about it many decades ago. He beats most folks to champion uncommon species; which is why re-reading him often is a recommended exercise for the true dendrophile.  He said "It is quite a pretty shrub, flowering over a long period when shrubs in bloom are not plentiful". Hardiness is decent but less than I. kirilowii for example. It is probably safe in USDA 6 and certainly fine in 7. That puts it in the trying range of several million people around the world.

Click images to enlarge.


Indigofera heterantha is sometimes sold as I. gerardiana. It even goes under the silly corruption I. hederantha which would mean "ivy flowered" of all things. Never saw an ivy with glowing pink, pea-like flowers. In any event, Wallich's name with the "t" is correct.

This deciduous shrub is about 5 feet tall and wide and one of the most lovely fine textures in the plant kingdom. It has an RHS AGM so everyone should know it for that reason alone.

For me the foliage alone is enough. Beans says there are 13-21 leaflets per leaf.  They're faintly grey-hairy and so the look is light gray-green. W.J. describes the effect is that of "great beauty and luxuriance" and sums it up as "one of the most ornamental of late-flowering shrubs".

It will be smaller at 3 x 3 where less hardy and cut back. At Kew it reached 10 feet against a warm wall. This plant is at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens in Charlotte, North Carolina where they have used the climate to grow a full range of wonderful plants grown to absolute perfection.

The flowers are what Bean calls "rose purple" but are plain old magenta to me. Ordinarily I hate that color, especially in azaleas and petunias and old lady's hats. Against this pale, fine, slightly bluish foliage the color is balanced nicely and just plain works. One needs good sunlight for the best, dense foliage and plenty of bright flowers.

Click image to enlarge.