This very elegant mullein species native to Southern Greece and the Olympus mountains in Turkey is a very impressive plant and arguably the finest of the genus. The silvery-grey, felted evergreen basal leaves grow in wide rosettes in an attractive succulent-like basal rosette pattern. Each leaf can be 1ft long and nearly half as wide. They lie flat on the ground, like an open fan.
Verbascums are statuesque in both foliage and flower. From early to late summer, tall flower spikes rise rapidly from the centre of the foliage, followed by secondary flower spikes. Each are weighted heavily with bright, golden-yellow blooms giving the effect of an enormous candelabra. The 2.5cm (1in) blooms last all summer, from June to September. This is the mullein to grow for flower production as they are much easier to gather from than other varieties.
All verbascum species are an excellent choice for a cottage style or dry garden. This variety is very drought tolerant and suitable for costal 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. It looks particularly well rising above plants that form large mounds of flowers.
Famed nursery woman Beth Chatto, who operates a nursery and display garden at White Barn House in Essex, views verbascum as a fine group of plants and gives V. olympicum an important front-of-the-border position for their summer show of spiky yellow-flowering stalks. In the Dry Garden, the silken silver foliage and bright yellow blooms of Verbascum olympicum make it look as though the area is being guarded by strange botanical sentinels.
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 15-18°C (60-65°F). Keep soil slightly moist but not wet. Germination 7-21 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, Mediterranean or Gravel Garden. Exposed Coastal planting. Problem areas. Architectural. Drought, heat, deer, slug and snail proof.
Pick the flowers as required. For dried flowers, place them face down on paper or racks away from light to preserve colour (and medicinal properties).
Verbascum olympicum is native to the mountains of Greece and Turkey.
The word 'Verbascum' is derived from a corrupted form of Barbascum, the ancient Latin name for this genus of plant. It is likely to have been derived from two Latin sources – ‘ver’ meaning ‘spring’ and / or ‘barbascum', which means ‘bearded plant’.
Native to the mountains of Greece and Turkey. Olympicum strictly means ‘from Mount Olympus’ but ‘Olympus’ may also translate as ‘heaven’ and so the plant may be a gift from the gods. '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
- Additional Information
Packet Size 100mg Average Seed Count 760 Seeds Family Plantaginaceae Genus Verbascum Species olympicum Synonym Verbascum longiflorum var. pannosum Common Name Mullein Other Common Names Donkeys ears, Bunnys ears, Velvet plant Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Sulphur-Yellow in June to August. Foliage Low-growing rosette of large 30cm (12in) silvery-green leaves Height 180cm (70in) Spread 60cm (24in) Position Full Sun Soil Well-drained/light, Chalky/alkaline, Dry, Sandy Notes Herb