Saturday, May 11, 2013

Vervain Epiphany

Some areas of my Kansas roadside have burst into bloom with one of the most noticeable wildflowers to be found here in early Spring.  This is Rose Verbena, Glandularia canadensis, also known as Rose Vervain.  I first noticed it two days ago on an eroding hillside just around the corner from my house.  It also grows sparsely in my pastures, although perhaps not so noticeable amidst the growing prairie grasses.  Rose Verbena grows about a foot tall here, and my reading tells me that each plant lives only 2-3 years. 

Plants like this sometimes make me wonder what kind of a gardening idiot I really am.  There are a number of Verbena hybrids in commerce that were derived using this very species, a species that literally volunteers to grow in my climate, and yet I don't have any of the hybrids in my garden.  Those finely-lobed gray-green leaves are tailor-created for the dry, hot Kansas summers.  Here I am, staring at proof positive that these plants will likely grow well amidst the Kansas sunshine and the occasional droughts, and yet none has appealed to me enough for purchase. 

Oh no, like other gardeners, I spend a significant percentage of my time and effort growing magnolias and crape myrtles, both at the northern ends of their hardiness zone.  There haven't been wild magnolias and crape myrtles here since before the last Ice Age.  I've got two thriving clumps of Texas Red Yucca, which I've only seen wild in Texas or as landscaping in Las Vegas.  I pamper witch hazel in dry full sun and Salvia gauranitica two full hardiness zones north of it's limits.  It could be worse;  at least I long ago gave up trying to grow azaleas in Kansas sun.

Hybrids of Monarda, Catmint, and Babtisia, each related to native prairie species, all grow dependably in my garden.  My tallest trees are native Cottonwoods, transplanted from wild seedlings.  Redbuds are distributed several places in my garden, healthy and happy after they appeared as weeds in flower beds and were transplanted to more acceptable areas.   I think my morning lesson to myself is to ease back on the fight against Nature and "go along to get along". 

I will resolve this year to try a few Verbena hybrids.  Most are marketed in my area as half-hardy annuals, and they grow a little short for the scale of my garden, but perhaps I haven't given them a fair chance.  There are a number listed as worthy of growing in Kansas in the Prairie Star Lists.  Perhaps one will prove to be a dependable short-lived perennial to worship at the feet of my roses.  If not, perhaps our native Glandularia canadensis can be enticed into my garden.  I wouldn't mind the bright pink, and besides, one never knows when one might need a galactagogue or entheogen ready to harvest from the garden.


  1. I too am enjoying these varieties, many alongside the roadways. Haven't found one volunteer however in the vacant industrial lots I normally borrow from.

  2. I have these growing wild in Texas, as well. The butterflies love them!


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