Say the word ‘Veronicastrum’ and the name Piet Oudolf will soon follow.
To garden with an Oudolf-esque plant like Veronicastrum, it is not necessary to turn your outdoor space into a prairie: you are allowed to keep your flower beds. Naturalistic planting travels well, and Veronicastrum holds its own in a formal border with a lawn nearby, as well as in the middle of a lawn which has turned into a meadow.
Oudolf favours perennials with a strong vertical aspect, such as Veronicastrum, he leaves them standing in the winter to create a sculptural effect under snow. Tall airy plants like the Calamagrostis grass, and Veronicastrum can work well in small gardens. Nectar-rich flowers with subtle colours, attracting pollinators to even the most elegant garden
To add to its hardworking attributes, Veronicastrum sibiricum is one of the most fashionable plants around. It's an icon of the prairie-style of planting which has marked the young millennium. It can be dressed up or down, and is just as comfortable in forward-thinking European gardens.
Veronicastrum sibiricum is a smaller plant than its relative Veronicastrum virginicum, the strong stems are clothed in tiers of long, lance shaped, toothed leaves with deeper venations. The flower spikes grow to a height of 120cm (48in) with dense lavender flowers sometimes giving a hint of pink.
Preferring a position in moist, fertile soil, in sun or partial shade, they are best planted at the middle or to the back of a mixed herbaceous border because of their stature, the flowers add height to the back of a sunny or partially shady border.
Part of the attraction of these vertical spires is in their unique structure. Whorls of leaves around a tall central stem give Veronicastrum an element of intrigue months before the racemes of flowers appear. After flowering, Veronicastrum can be kept as an increasingly skeletal form through autumn and winter. It mixes well with Sanguisorba, Thalictrum, Eupatorium and of course grasses while offering an admirable contrast to mounding forms, such as Amsonia.
Sowing: February to June or September to October.
Sow the seeds on the surface of lightly firmed, moist seed compost in pots or trays. Seeds must be sown thinly. Do not cover very small seeds, but tightly press into the compost. Water from the base of the tray, Place in a propagator or warm place, ideally at 13 to 16°C (55 to 60°F). Keep the compost moist but not wet at all times. Germination 30 to 40 days. Keep in cooler conditions after germination occurs.
Seedlings can be slow to grow, prick out each seedling once it has its first set of true leaves and transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots containing free-draining compost and grow them on in frost free conditions until large enough to plant outside.
Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost has passed. Overwinter autumn sown plants in frost-free conditions before planting out the following spring. Plant 30 to 60cm apart.
Veronicastrum prefers full sunshine but can tolerate some shade. If shade is too dense staking will be necessary to hold the plant upright. Likes a rich loamy soil best but most soils are tolerated as long as some organic material has been dug into them. It will tolerate occasional waterlogged soils.
'Chelsea chop' the plants by a good third during the time of the Chelsea Flower Show which takes place at the end of May. Chopped plants will soon regrow and be in flower, they will be shorter and stronger and will not flop.
The plants can take several years to establish themselves well in a garden and reach full height, but will flower from seed in the first year. Old flower spikes may be removed as they fade or stems can be left until spring to give winter interest to the garden and provide shelter for beneficial insects.
Divide congested plant in spring when clumps become too large.
Cut when the flowers are beginning to open but before the oldest flowers on the stem start to show signs of browning.
To dry, hang upside down in a warm (not hot) place with good air circulation. Drying too fast at high temps can cause browning, but drying too slowly may result in colour loss on the stems and leaves and give a less fresh appearance.
Natural garden, Shade or Woodland Garden, Bees and Butterflies. Flower Arranging.
There are around 20 species of Veronicastrum, native to North America, Europe and Asia.
Veronicastrum sibiricum is native to Russia, northern China and Japan. In its native habitat it grows in grassy areas in mountains and lowlands
It was originally placed by Linnaeus in the genus Veronica which is not the same as Veronicastrum. Botanists have recently moved this genus and the Veronicas into the plant family Scrophulariaceae.
The genus is named in two parts, Veronica for Saint Veronica, who in Christian mythology gave Christ a cloth to wipe his face while carrying the cross on the way to Calvary, and so named because the markings on some species supposedly resemble those on her sacred handkerchief, and 'astrum', meaning 'an incomplete resemblance' - hence a plant that resembles somewhat the Veronicas.
The species name sibiricum means ‘of or from Siberia’ the plant is native to parts of Russia.
Commonly known as Culver’s Root, Siberian Veronicastrum and Kugai-sou.
The related north American species Veronicastrum virginicum is reputed to have been named after a Dr. Culver, who presumably used the herb for medicinal purposes. The doctor has never been specifically identified. All that is known for certain is that by 1716 Culver's root was common enough for Cotton Mather to mention it in his writings, noting that it was “Famous for the cure of Consumptions.”
'Culver' is also an archaic or poetic name for a dove, from the Old English culfre, from Latin columbula meaning 'a little dove'. This could have been used in reference to the flowers.
The plant grows from a taproot and small slender rhizomes which are nearly cylindrical and dark brown on the outside of older ones, hence the name 'Black root'. The fresh root was used medicinally as a violent cathartic (a purgative) and is dangerous to use.
Less common names include: Beaumont Root, Brinton Root, Hini, Oxadoddy, Tall Veronica, Whorlywort.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 35mg Average Seed Count 350 seeds Family Scrophulariaceae Genus Veronicastrum Species sibiricum Synonym Veronica virginica, Leptandra virginica Common Name Siberian Culver's Root Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Blue-Lilac spires Natural Flower Time July to September Height 120 to 150cm (4 to 5ft) Spacing 60cm (24in) Position Full sun or partial shade Soil Moist, fertile soil Time to Sow February to June or September to October. Germination 5 to 10 days at 15 to 20°C (59 to 68°F).