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Eco Plant Whisperer October 2021

Veronicastrum virginicum 'Album'

Let's get close up and personal with this gem of a perennial ! Just look at that plant morphology ! It's when you really get to close quarters with plants that you begin to appreciate their merits more and how we can best utilise them within planting schemes. At the very least as gardeners you can just about scratch the surface in a lifetime with experimenting, and that's what makes it fun, that's what gardening should be, fun ! 

What I really like with working with Veronicastrum is that it's a perennial species that works well in various positions in the perennial planting  scheme, it's a very versatile plant to work with. 

I was strongly influenced by the late Graham Stuart Thomas. The National Trust Book, The Art Of Planting by GST is an excellent and informative read, and those who haven't  flicked through  the pages, I would certainly recommend doing so ! GST oozes knowledge and enthusiasm and is arguably the greatest Plantsperson that ever lived. He has certainly influenced me in the way I interact and think about plants, how plants respond to experiments, nurturing with time and care under various conditions. 

How we interact with plants and the effect on our mental health is high on the agenda of Horticultural research.

Since working as a Horticultural Consultant I have just by chance become a plant therapist. Interacting with clients discussing and planting perennials, shrubs and trees has enhanced many lives particularly during Covid. 

So back to Veronicastrum ! I have become acutely aware of how plant morphology draws people towards plants, it isn't just about colour and scent, the morphology of a plant comes high on the agenda on how a particular plant appeals to people. 

It's a perennial clients love to use as it fits into various spots of the perennial planting scheme as previously mentioned. The spires stand out in the middle or back of the borders amidst displays, or the smaller species can run along to the front of a planting scheme. 


Physocarpus

V . virginicum

V . virginicum

I've recently been planting a mixed planting scheme of shrubs and perennials, the colour blend is white purple and pink. The various colour shades of Veronicastrum work to striking effect when planted under Acer's and complimenting the spectacular shrub of Physocarpus with it's deep purple foliage. I'm planning this ongoing planting as a Healing Garden Project.

Veronicastrum belongs to the family ( Plantaginaceae) some  plant taxonomy systems puts this genus into the family of Veronica.

Veronicastrum originate from North America, the most common species being V . virginicum.

I am also growing Veronicastrum virginicum 'Album' within a newly planted area in our garden, a semi shaded planting project. It's a mix of Dahlias, Salvia species, Phlox etc. The slender spires of this perennial works well and sets off the other plants around it. It really does have that force of energy. It even looks great planted in front of our Lakeland stone cottage. 

The great thing about this genus is that it is so versatile too growing in acidic, alkaline and neutral soil conditions, also with the added bonus of sun and shade as the aspect. It meets the corridors of other perennials which makes it a perennial that forms the transition of planting. Plant morphology and versitility of planting puts this perennial high on my list when selecting planting schemes. 

I've mulched the V . virginicum 'Album' with a good dose of our home made compost as the  plant will lap up humus rich soil ! 

Two other very good selections are Veronicastrum virginicum 'Erica' with tall pink spikes. but one I really enjoy selecting for the wildlife garden scheme is Veronicastrum virginicum 'Fascination' This plant has extra long spikes and really attracts the bees. 

It's certainly one I'll be recommending on my  monthly e- news letter for Cumbria Wildlife Trust. 

Kevin Line Posted by Kevin Line

Kevin works as a Freelance Horticultural Plant Consultant in the south Lake District.

He is a member of Butterfly Conservation and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Hardy Plant Society, the Wildflower Society, and the Botanical Society Of Britain & Ireland. He also writes for the RHS Plant Review (formerly RHS Plantsman), he is currently researching historic plant propagation/ taxonomy for the Gardens Trust ( formerly Garden History Society ).

Kevin had previously worked for three and a half years developing the garden of an Arts & Crafts period Country House Hotel to National Gardens Scheme standard. (South Lakes)

He has also previously worked as Head Gardener in the Cotswolds for over 10 years, prior to that, BBC Gardeners World, and the National Trust.

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