Divine and supernatural are not usually words one would associate with a plant of any description, but Verbenas have most certainly earned those descriptions. One of their ancient uses, according to legend, included containing the blood flow out of Jesus’ wounds after he was removed from the cross, affording it the honour of names like “Holy Herb” and “Devil’s Bane”. With the Greeks dedicating this bloom to Eos Erigineia, the Titan goddess of the dawn and ancient Egyptians knowing them as “Tears of Isis”, it’s easy to see how revered verbenas were back in the olden days.
The modern day love for these annuals may no longer be necessarily divine or supernatural, but it’s for equally good reasons! They’re prolific bloomers that require as little pampering as possible and are hard as nails. Ok, not literally “as hard as nails” but they’re one of the hardiest annuals we’ve got, surviving easily in the dusty and sweltering sun beaten spots that usually just remain barren in our gardens throughout the year. If you’ve got some of those spots that could do with some life, plant some verbenas and watch your very own divine and supernatural transformation, from drab to glam.
Most of the 250, or thereabout, verbena species come from the Americas while some originate from parts of Europe. For a long lasting colour spectacle every year it’s best to plant them in early spring, and they’ll reward your previously bare patch with life right up until the first frosts. Verbenas have been known to pretend, quite well it has to be said, to be perennials and survive the winter to continue flowering for their second year, but their true annual colours show in their ability to deliver only about half the amount of wow they offered in the first year.
Speaking of the wow factor they offer, this will depend largely on how little care you offer them. They really don’t enjoy being pampered, which is just as well, since who wants to stand for hours supplying TLC in the most arid area of their garden? Follow these four tips, when it comes to verbenas and your neighbours will think you’ve been gardening for a lifetime already:
- Plant your verbenas in a well-composted bed and when they’ve reached a height of about 15cm, give them a once off dose of fertiliser. It should be a balanced slow releasing one.
- While they’re settling themselves in, water them regularly until you can see they’re healthy, happy and growing nicely. After that, it is very important to only water them when the top layer of soil, at least one centimetre deep, has dried out.
- Being sun thirsty plants, verbenas need as much direct sunlight as their leaves can lay their surface area on, every day. Ideally between 8 and 10 hours will be perfect. This not only makes them happy but will also prevent any kind of disease possibilities, like powdery mildew.
- Deadhead your spent blooms! For first time gardeners, that means plucking off the dead or faded blooms. It’s not a mammoth task and will make sure they offer non-stop flowering. If you notice, all of a sudden, they’ve stopped flowering and it’s because you forgot, don’t worry, just clip off the top of the stems and they’ll be blooming again in a couple of weeks. They’re forgiving like that.