VALLEY LAVENDER plains verbena: gem of the prairie
When gardeners think of verbenas, they usually think of the brilliant red, pink, purple or white annuals that are often used in annual bedding schemes. Native plant enthusiasts know of several verbenas that grow natively in the Rocky Mountain region that look very much like the annual sorts. Our native verbenas, however, are sound perennials and extremely drought tolerant as well. Several local nurseries have grown Verbena bipinnatifida for years (this is the commonest showy verbena found around Denver.) A fine strain developed a t Little Valley Wholesale Nursery has been selected for introduction in 2005 by Plant Select® under the cultivar name VALLEY LAVENDER®. VALLEY LAVENDER® forms low, compact mats of gray foliage that are covered through spring and early summer with rounded clusters of bright lavender purple heads of bloom. Flowering continues through the summer season, although perhaps not quite as heavily. There is usually a second generous flush of bloom in late summer and autumn. Fresh flowers can be produced well into the winter in mild years. Obviously, such a long blooming perennial with great drought tolerance makes a perfect edging or at the front of a Xeriscape or sunny perennial garden.
Once established, it hardly needs irrigation to survive, although the occasional drink will encourage lavish blooms. It makes a fine small-scale groundcover and looks equally at home in a formal garden setting or the wild garden. Avoid putting it in too much shade or watering too much: this is a child of the Great Plains, after all.
The luminous lavender flowers combine especially well with bright yellow Basket of Gold or various daisies. Toss in a scarlet penstemon and voila: you have a bit of the wild, untrammeled West magically transported into your garden. Don’t worry: bison and prairie dogs won’t show up right away.
View the plant profile here.
VALLEY LAVENDER® plains verbena, (Verbena bipinnatifida)
Blooms: May to October
Sun: Full sun
Soil Moisture: Moderate to xeric, once established.
Hardiness: USDA zones 5-8 .
Culture: Clay, loam or sandy soil
Thanks to Panayoti Kelaidis, Denver Botanic Gardens, for writing this piece.