May is The Best Month to Add This Must Have Summer Star to Your Modern Garden
Few gardens can do without these little purple puffs! The tightly packed clusters of flowers sit atop the skinniest of stems so, although the blooms are only tiny, they always take top billing. The stems can grow up to 2m tall and sway in the slightest breeze, so Verbena bonariensis, sometimes called purple top or clustertop vervain, also brings a sense of movement to a modern garden. Grow them in a container, or in any bed, and enjoy the flowers from June to September.
If you really want to make a feature of Verbena bonariensis, then mirror the loveliness of these lofty giants with pots of their miniature cousin, ‘Lollipop’, £14.95/5 jumbo seedlings, sarahraven.com. This produces the same open sprays of lavender flowers, but on a much lower-growing plant, reaching just 60cm high. Try compact Verbena rigida, £6.99/9cm pot, crocus.co.uk, too, which produces clusters of fragrant, bright purple or magenta flowers all summer-long. Although verbena is a perennial, meaning the plant will flower every year, it doesn’t always survive British winters.
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The plant will scatter plenty of seeds, though, which will grow happily without any help from you, so it’s not a problem. And it’s fun to find baby verbenas popping up in all sorts of places, which is okay, as they look good everywhere!
PICK A HEALTHY PLANT
Verbenas can be ordered online from most garden suppliers. When the plants arrive, check they have a well-balanced, symmetrical shape and several stems. Return anything that shows signs of stress, damage such as broken stems, tired-looking yellowing or wilted leaves, or any powdery white deposits.
KEEP IT ALIVE
Fairly accommodating, verbena will grow in sunny spots as well as partially shady positions. It loves well-drained soil that holds plenty of moisture in summer, so dig in lots of bulky organic matter, such as planting compost or Verve Soil Improver (£4.37/50L, diy.com), and water in well.
HELP IT THRIVE
Once it’s settled into its new home, it’ll only need watering in prolonged, very dry periods, but would appreciate a feed (try Phostrogen All Purpose Soluble Plant Food, £4.25/800g, homebase.co.uk) every now and then. Once it’s finished flowering, don’t be tempted to cut off the old stems – wait until late spring and you can see new shoots appearing from the base.
Treat your garden to… Plant omethin lovely.
Verbena is the perfect patio plant for a pop of colour. ‘Lollipop’, being more compact, will produce a solid mass of colour. Just remember to water it if it’s in a pot.
TALL AND AIRY A
Raised bed packed with the see-through flower stems of verbena will create a living screen to give privacy to a seating area without blocking the view. The stiff stems don’t need any staking, so they’re on our list of favourite no-fuss flowers!
Sweet peas look great with any other summer blooms, including roses. When cutting, keep their stems as long as possible.
Make your own sweet pea supports, and paint them in in a range of complementary or contrasting hues for even more colour. Use leftover paint or try Cuprinol Garden Shades tester pots, £2 each diy.com.