Bonny Verbena

Verbena with Hummingbird Moth in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Verbena with Hummingbird Moth (photo: Kathy Diemer)

I’m not much of an annual lover.  Don’t get me wrong, I always make up a few containers and window boxes every year (even though I find the daily watering and fertilizing quite tedious).  Annuals are also great for filling in those open spots that mysteriously appear (after what I suspect were major vole fests).  And I have the utmost respect for those dedicated folks that plant dahlias and cannas annually, carefully digging them up and storing them through the winter.  But that’s just not me.  I want a relationship with my plants and shrubs, where we can grow up together, mature over time and learn to accept each other’s idiosyncrasies.  My needs are simple; I want plants that thrive without a lot of fussing, and come back faithfully year after year.  That’s not a lot to ask, is it?

Verbena's "see through" foliage in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Verbena’s “see through” foliage (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Yet there are a few plants that I will make an exception for, and Verbena bonariensis is one of them.  Miss Bonariensis is a tall, upright form (without staking!) in the garden, and can grow over 5′ tall (and almost as wide) in optimal conditions.  A major sun worshipper, bonny verbena will produce masses of lilac-violet clusters atop her slender, erect stems.  And that is what makes Verbena bonariensis so special to this perennial proponent; her fabulous form.  The flowers soar freely above the foliage, leaving the airy, open architecture below, which acts as a semi-transparent curtain for viewing through into the rest of the garden (Peek-a-boo-I-see-you).  Verbena bonariensis works perfectly when sighted in the center of a garden, as its height doesn’t impose on the rest of the design.  However, this plant has enough impact to stand individually, en masse as well.

Verbena bonariensis in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Verbena bonariensis and Cornus ‘Hedgerows Gold’ (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Verbena bonariensis is native to South America, and hardy to zones 7-10, so in colder climates like mine (zone 5) this is a plant that is considered an annual.  Too bad it’s not hardy to colder zones, but that may be a blessing in disguise as vigorous verbena is a plant that could quickly become too much of a good thing. Although I haven’t had problems with it reseeding and spreading the following year, the tendency is there for it to become *overzealous, especially in warmer zones (*listed as invasive in Georgia and Oregon).  That said, this tall beauty will flower abundantly from late June through frost, an attribute that both the local butterflies and I find quite irresistible.  Verbena bonariensis’ “see through” foliage and complementary blossom color make this a noteworthy consideration for even the most ardent perennial grower.

**If you like lavender colored blossoms, you may also enjoy: Anise Hyssop

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