Verbena bonariensis: tall, colourful and a real 'must have'
Verbena bonariensis truly is absolutely a ‘must-have’ plant in my eyes, and I don’t think I’ve ever missed it from the plant lists for the gardens I design and I have always had it in my own gardens.
A tall perennial with strong thin stems and fine mid-green foliage, V. bonariensis is best known for its display of clusters of tiny purple flowers from mid-summer to late autumn. Reminiscent of the glorious creamy-white cow parsley we can see throughout the summer on our roadsides and hedgerows, V. bonariensis adds elegant height (up to 1.2m) to any mixed planting scheme.
Best grown in full sun, it is a plant that can cope with most soil types providing they are free draining. Its strong stems (they are square in profile, just like those of the mint family) have a rigidity that enables them to withstand all but the fiercest of summer winds. This makes it ideal for a variety of different locations and particularly good for ‘tying’ a garden together if it is planted in quantity and dotted throughout a space. It will also stand proud throughout the winter if we let it, adding a beautiful skeletal structure on a frosty morning.
V. bonariensis is only moderately hardy and doesn’t always survive very cold and wet UK winters but, happily, it does tend to seed itself quite prolifically and often pops up in all sorts of unexpected places. I’ve always loved it when this happens and I encourage my garden design customers to let V. bonariensis ‘do its thing’ in their gardens. I appreciate, however, that self-seeding plants are not to everyone’s tastes. Each to their own- the fresh seedlings are easily identifiable and pull up readily enough if they aren’t wanted.
From a garden design point of view, V. bonariensis is wonderful for providing height and interest to a mixed planting scheme. It has a sense of grace and ‘lightness’ that makes it ideal for providing textural contrast. It works wonderfully well with other tall perennials and ornamental grasses- try it alongside purple fennel, foxgloves or Stipa gigantea and I’m sure you will not be disappointed.
Finally, V. bonariensis is much-loved by a number of important friendly insects and butterflies. This alone makes it a great plant to have in our gardens but, as I’m sure you can tell, I wouldn’t be without it for a whole host of reasons. If you only introduce one new plant to your garden this summer then please let it be Verbena bonariensis.
Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.