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Gardening From Southern California

...verbena
by Gerald Burke
by Gerald Burke

email: geraldb571@aol.com

Gerald Burke is a freelance travel and horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association


May 20, 2007

When summer comes flower gardeners have to remember that while some flowers are pretty, they aren’t satisfactory for our dry, hot summers. But one flower, verbena, is one that does like it hot and dry, and verbenas provide an abundance of brightly colored little clusters of blooms from early spring on into late fall, and many will live over the winter. The common verbena is an annual, but it doesn’t know that and may well continue to flower for another year if given the right care and if it doesn’t have to live in a frosty environment.

In the last few years a different kind of verbena has arrived on the scene, offered almost entirely as started plants, not from seed, and they, too, have added to the beauty of our flower garden. Many of them came from an old and hardy verbena that lives in the wild throughout many parts of the inland areas. It grows on ditch banks, in pastures, and many times in vacant lots, and is still seen as a garden flower. The color of this old variety, tenuisecta, is blue, but the newer plants, vegetatively propagated from it, include many colors and somewhat better plant habits. You’ll see them mostly in the nursery and garden center in four inch pots or larger containers.

Seed propagated verbenas are still popular with gardeners, and still have a place in the garden. Most verbenas are low growing plants, spreading like ground covers, and always covered with the clustered, or domed flower heads in many pastel and deeper colors. Peaches ‘N Cream was an All America Selections Winner a few years back, and it has shown solid popularity in the garden. Plants are covered with blooms in tints of apricot and cream.

Thompson and Morgan lists a one new this year named St. George. It has clusters of red and white flowers, blooms prolifically and spreads to about 18 inches. Dwarf Jewels is a very low growing verbena with solid colors in red, white, purple and cream. Sandy Mixture has about the best closely clustered flower heads in red, pink, dark red and white and makes an excellent border flower.

Catalogs list many varieties, and seed racks will have one or two. Most nurseries and good garden centers will have started plants of two or three varieties of seed grown verbena in six packs throughout the spring and summer. All verbenas should be planted in full sun everywhere and given minimal watering after they’re well established, and require little or no fertilizer. These compact plants make excellent borders, massed plantings and do well in good sized containers.

 

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