Two Ornamentals From Afghanistan

Plants are not the first thing that come to mind for most people when Afghanistan is mentioned, save for the Opium Poppy, which is definitely one plant I don't grow. 

Rhodiola is a small, sedum-like succulent ground hugger.  R. rosea is used in the herbal supplement industry, unfortunately.  I think mine might be R. rosea, but I have no herbal supplement plans for it.  It is just a small ornamental that looks ratty in summer, fall, and winter, and lovely in spring.  It's about 4" wide and 2" tall.  A small bit of green, a curiosity, a plant from far far away, from a place where we spill blood and spend money. 

 Rhodolia

Then there is Perovskia atriplicifolia, 'Little Spire', which is a smaller selection of the species.   I've seen many photographs of it forming big, dense clumps.  Mine has formed a thin, sparse colony of short stems, 12-18" tall, topped with delicate, dreamy, lavender-blue flower spikes. 

Perovskia atriplicifolia

I cut it to the ground when the stems dry up in late winter, and it grows back in early spring.  It's on a steep slope, and with its rhizome root structure, appears to do something to hold the slope in place.  The common name is "Russian Sage"--supposedly it got the name from Russian soldiers picking the flowers during the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan during the 80's.  Who knows about that.  Perovskia is in the mint (Lamiaceae) family, so it is no surprise it's a spreader--though on that dry slope, a spreader is acceptable, especially a sparse, airy one--no cover for the rabbits.  

Perovskia peeking out from behind Yucca recurvifolia 'Margaritaville':
Perovskia atriplicifolia

Whatever your feelings about Afghanistan, for most people it's an abstract.  For me these two plants make it tangible in a way that news articles, movies, and political arguments do not.  These plants are tough.  Their beauty is understated, without glamour, appropriate for a place with brutal hot fly-infested summers and frigid winters.  Stoic, patient, aliens closed in on themselves, as if they are waiting only to go home again. 

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