Gardeners are often looking for good solid perennials that will have attractive flowers, be easy to take care of, grow nicely but not take over the garden. One group of plants that should be considered is the Veronicas.
Veronicas offer the gardener a wide array of plants to work into many different areas of the garden. There are several species of this durable perennial and probably dozens of different cultivars to choose from. Most of them are hardy, withstanding cold and often open winters yet they can also take the heat and drought of summer. Veronica provides some of the clearest, truest blues in the perennial border. Other flower colours are also available, including purple, pink, rose and white.
Some species are prostrate, only raising their flowers a few inches above the ground while others can reach 120cm (4ft) in height and make excellent cut flowers. Many work well in the rock garden while others are better suited to a moister location in the mixed border. Some are late spring blooming while others display their flowers for the rest of the summer and even up until first frosts.
Veronica longifolia 'Blue Shades' forms a bushy, upright clump of bright green leaves that grows to around 40cm (16in) wide. The strong erect stems reach 90cm (36in) in height and elevate a refreshing floral display of tall, slender blue columns crowded with small tubular blossoms that taper into curvy green tips. Composed of dozens of densely arranged, small florets, the flowers open progressively from the base upwards to form a long lasting spike.
Veronica longifolia prefers a position in sun or part shade in moist well-drained soil. The sophisticated spires bloom in midsummer and last for several months. They make a strong vertical statement and are an excellent contrast to more traditional flowers shapes when positioned at the front of the border.
Beloved by bees, butterflies and flower arrangers, they are especially attractive when planted in eye-catching drifts.
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.
Veronica longifolia prefers full sunshine but can tolerate some shade. If shade is too dense staking will be necessary to hold the plant upright. It 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.
To keep Veronica re-blooming remove the old flower spikes as they fade; this promotes fresh new growth which in turn will provide renewed flowering. After the first killing frost, cut stems back to between 25m and 50mm above the soil line. Divide congested plants every 3 to 4 years as new growth begins in the spring.
Veronica can be a workhorse in the cut flower garden; it will provide a full second crop of stems if cut down completely to the ground after the first harvest. Veronica has a linear type flower that provides movement, action, or life to an arrangement. They are superb in bouquets and long lasting in the vase.
Cut when the flowers are beginning to open but before the oldest flowers on the stem start to show signs of browning. Cut the stems at a 45 degree angle with a sharp knife. Place into a bucket filled with luke warm water. Add flower food and leave over night to condition before using.
To make your own cut flower food mix ½ teaspoon of table sugar to a quart of cold water and mix thoroughly.
Be sure to remove any foliage that may be below the water line to prevent bacteria formation in the water. Re-cut ½in from the base of each stem under water using a sharp knife with each water change. Remove any foliage that may become submerged after re-cutting.
Naturalistic garden, Cottage or Informal Garden, Bees and Butterflies. Flower Arranging.
There are about 500 species of Veronica making it the largest genus in the flowering plant family Scrophulariaceae.
Veronica longifolia is native to much of Europe, S.W. Asia, Mongolia, Korea and N. China, and found in places such as Steppes, grassy mountain slopes, meadows at forest edges and birch forests below 1500 metres in northwest China.
It was first recorded in cultivation in France and Switzerland in the mid 1500's.
The genus name 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.
The species name longifolia simply means 'with long leaves'.
Alba derives from the Latin word album for a ‘writing tablet’ now used to mean ‘white’ in reference to the tablets historically being white.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 200mg Average Seed Count 2,400 seeds Family Scrophulariaceae Genus Veronica Species longifolia Cultivar Blue Shades Synonym Pseudolysimachion longifolium Common Name Longleaf Speedwell Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Blue spires Natural Flower Time July to September Height 90cm (36in) Spread 30cm (12in) 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).