One look at this species of Verbascum and you will realise why it is also called ‘Arctic Summer’. Its stems and leaves are covered in a silvery down that gives it an appearance of being permanently covered with frost.
The wide impressive, silvery-white, felted evergreen leaves grow in wide rosettes in an attractive succulent-like basal rosette pattern. From these, tall, white, fleecy flower stems emerge in early summer. They reach their full height by mid-summer and start to produce a succession of wide-open, sulphur yellow flowers which continue into late summer. After flowering, the spikes still look attractive for months before starting to die off. By the end of winter, the flowers fade and dry, looking like ‘stars’ that are floating in clouds of cotton wool. Their evergreen leaves look outstanding in winter, providing interest, colour and texture, the flower spikes make one of the most enduring autumn and winter silhouettes in the garden.
These short lived perennial plants will die back once flowering, to return again in spring. It will probably live for around 3 to 4 years in well-drained soil, but will continue from self sown seedlings. If preferred, it is possible to pinch out the flowering shoots in order to extend the life of the plant and keep the focus on the leaves.
All verbascum species are an excellent choice for a cottage style or dry garden. This variety is very drought tolerant and suitable for coastal planting. It is hardy to -18°C (0°F). It attracts a wide variety of pollinators, including bees and butterflies, and birds appreciate the seeds.
Both children and adults are drawn to the immense felted evergreen leaves, later they are awed by the towering candelabra flower spikes. It may be short lived but this charming plant is easy to grow, very rewarding and well worth it for the effect.
Sowing: Sow in mid to late spring or in late summer to early Autumn
Sow in trays, pots, etc of well draining seed compost (John Innes or similar). The plants have a long tap root, so you may wish to use root trainers or long pots. (Take care when transplanting). Cover the seeds lightly with compost or medium-grade vermiculite to help keep the seed moist during germination. Avoid direct sunlight by shading seeds after sowing. Place in a propagator or warm place to maintain an optimum temperature of 15 to 18°C (60 to 65°F). Keep soil slightly moist but not wet. Germination 7 to 21 days.
Following germination, reduce the moisture levels somewhat, allowing the growing medium to dry out slightly before watering to help promote rooting. They are usually ready for transplanting in 5-7 weeks when the roots reach the bottom of the pot. Transplant into 10-18cm (4 to 7in) pots. Harden off and plant out when all risk of frost has passed 60cm (24in) apart in full sun. Leave the rosette to develop for the first year.
As with many plants, the covering of silvery down, indicates a special liking for sun and moist but sharply draining soil; sites with poor drainage will most likely lead to plant mortality. They require a mulch in the winter for protection and a cool winter period (called vernalisation) before flowering the second season.
Verbascum is a moderate feeder. Growing them under high fertility regimes generally causes them to become very lush and delay flowering. Don't fertilize after mid Sept.
These evergreen plants keep their leaves year round, losing the aerial part during the coldest months of the year. Tidy the leaves in spring and then leave the plant to perform. The stems are woody and most verbascums do not need staking. A short lived perennial; it will probably live for around 3 to 4 years in well-drained soil.
Border, Cottage Garden, Mediterranean or Gravel Garden. Exposed Coastal planting. Problem areas. Architectural plant. Drought , heat, deer, slug and snail proof.
Pick the flowers as required. For dried flowers, place the flowers face down on paper or racks away from light to preserve colour (and medicinal properties).
Not a terribly interesting plant unless you are an ancient Roman with an abscess.
Verbascums are natural sources of rotenone and saponins. Historically, fishing techniques of indigenous people around the world have frequently included the use of plant-based piscicides. (Substances which are poisonous to fish.)
Verbascum bombyciferum is native to the mountains of Turkey and Greece. Today, it is largely restricted to the Bithynian Olympus, nowadays called Ulu Dag, not far from Proussa (nowadays Bursa), a few hour's drive south of Constantinople (Istanbul).
The word 'Verbascum' is likely to have been derived from two Latin sources – ver meaning ‘spring’ and / or barbascum, which means ‘bearded plant’.
The species name bombyciferum means ‘Silk Bearing’. It is taken from the Greek bombyc meaning ‘silk’ (‘of silk’ or ‘silken’) and fero meaning 'to bear'.
'Mullein' is from the Latin mollis meaning soft. One of the most common names is ‘the candlewick plant’ because the large soft furry leaves were cut into strips, dried, and used as wicks for candles.
When a plant sheds its common name and becomes known only by its official Latin title, it is a sure sign that it has come up in the world. The Verbascum has shrugged off as many as 10 downmarket pseudonyms as it has ascended the horticultural social scale, moving from the disorderly surroundings of the cottage garden to elegant colour-themed plantings. This stately plant, which combines architectural form with beautiful colouring, deserves this elevation
Folklore and Facts:
Poachers of fish are said to have made their quarry drunk by feeding them the seeds. Cockroaches are allergic to one species. A concoction from the tissues is supposed to turn the hair as golden as a goddess's, and a tisane has been claimed to cure many ills, from gout to ringworm.
According to Pliny the Elder, it cures superficial abscess in a poultice made of pounded root, sprinkled in wine and wrapped in leaves but only if the patient fasts and the poultice is applied by a naked maiden who has also been fasting. The maiden must say ‘Apollo tells us that plague cannot grow more fiery in a patient if a naked maiden quench the fire’. Mandragora is an alternative treatment for abscesses but does not require the involvement of a naked maiden so may not have been as popular.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 25mg Average Seed Count 200 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 8,000 seeds per kg Family Plantaginaceae Genus Verbascum Species bombyciferum Cultivar Arctic Summer Synonym Verbascum broussa Common Name 'Polar Summer', 'White Bride' or 'Silver Lining' Other Common Names Turkish Mullein, Silver Mullein, Candlewick Plant Other Language Names Polarsommer Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Sulphur-Yellow in June to August. Foliage Low-growing rosette of large 14in, silvery-green leaves Height 180cm (70in) Spread 60cm (24in) Position Full Sun Soil Well-drained/light, Chalky/alkaline, Dry, Sandy Notes Herb