A classic in the cottage garden, thanks to its airy, hazy qualities and huge popularity with garden designers, Verbena bonariensis is a stylish, herbaceous perennial that packs great visual impact. Tall, almost leafless, square stems, hold aloft tightly packed tufts of bright, lavender pink flowers and these bloom from midsummer right up until the frosts.
Its transparent shape means that despite its height, it can be used in the middle and the front of the border and still give view to the plants beyond and it brings stature and architectural interest with its willowy habit. It is lovely drifting and intermingling with other perennials and grasses – something it will do effortlessly if left to its own devices, as it self-seeds liberally.It is fantastic in a hot border at the end of summer, with zingy, orange geums, red crocosmias and bright dahlias, but just as delightful floating though a pastel display of pink and white anemone and yellow achillea.
Plant it in groups or drift through borders in wild, informal or more contemporary gardens. It is just perfect anywhere.
Verbena thrives in a sheltered, sunny spot but also copes well with some shade. It needs a light, well drained soil and once established is fairly drought tolerant. But it is short lived, lasting just three or four years and is also only borderline hardy – it will be wiped out by hard frosts if it is not protected through the winter in colder areas. Leave the old stems where they are until spring, to protect the new, young growth and prevent plants from dying back, and give them a mulch with dry leaf mould or compost in the autumn to protect the roots.
Verbena is also valued for bringing beneficial insects into the garden - the only thing that loves it more then garden designers are the butterflies, who flit around its lovely blooms throughout the summer.