Not to be missed

by Adam Pasco

It's only by regularly visiting nurseries, plant centres and shows that I can keep up-to-date with new plant introductions, but I do wonder what other gems I've been missing?

It's strange how some wonderful plants just pass you by. I've only just discovered a lovely low-growing perennial called Verbena rigida. As is the way, I was buying paint at B&Q and just happened to walk through the plant area when I came across some wonderful pots full of it. At first sight I thought this was a very dwarf form of the ever-popular Verbena bonariensis, but a closer look at the bushy pots of this dwarf variety left me completely charmed by my discovery. Within minutes I was loading cans of paint and three new plants into my boot!

Verbena rigidaEach plant had produced numerous short, branched stems topped by a characteristic cluster of violet/purple flowers. They've made their home in a large terracotta pot, planted simply as a group on their own, and I'm regularly dead heading to keep them blooming.

A few minutes on the internet has revealed more useful information about Verbena rigida, including the fact that it self-seeds freely (perhaps I shouldn't be dead heading so conscientiously!) Growing so easily from seed makes me wonder why I've never spotted it in any seed catalogues before, but there it is in both the Chiltern Seeds and Thompson & Morgan catalogues - a packet containing 150 seeds costs less than a third of the price I paid for one plant!

It has also received the RHS's accolade on an Award of Garden Merit, a seal of approval I often look for when buying plants. This is usually represented using the symbol of a trophy on plant labels. I've also discovered that the gardens of Versailles in France include thousands of them, and they can be clipped quite harshly to keep them neat. Although various references call it frost-hardy others refer to it needing to be lifted and protected over winter. I wonder what treatment would be most successful to keep it through winter in my Peterborough garden?

It's only by regularly visiting nurseries, plant centres and shows that I can keep up-to-date with new plant introductions, but I do wonder what other gems I've been missing?

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Talkback: Not to be missed
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Gardeners' World Web User 21/08/2007 at 12:29

Delighted to hear you've discovered it too, Lorrie. I'll try saving seed, but if this isn't successful will buy some seed to sow early next spring. I can see Verbena rigida becoming a firm favourite in my garden.

Gardeners' World Web User 25/08/2007 at 17:41

Again, I found this plant in my local garden centre, in Barnstaple, not in flower, and love it better than the V.bonariensis, as they become giants in my garden. Hopefully it will seed like the bonariensis, but I have taken cuttings just in case.

Gardeners' World Web User 25/08/2007 at 17:57

Adam - I too walked past them at B&Q and 2 landed in my flat bed trolley! They are now at home next to the chocolate Cosmos, but reading your piece above, they are behind the Cosmos, so may need to be swapped in Spring...! (Glad you own up to buying at B&Q!) Cat x

Gardeners' World Web User 22/11/2008 at 19:19

I am glad the subject of chocolate cosmos has come up. I purchased two bare root plants earlier this year. They were planted and immediately began to grow with astounding vigour. I now have two beautiful plants which in mid to late November are in full flower. Is this unusual for such a tender plant. They show no signs of fading for the winter. Cosmos in full flower a few weeks before Xmas, they have been flowering now for four months !!!

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:29

It's funny you should mention this Adam as I too have discovered this plant this year. I bought mine from Notcutts Nursery in Norwich when on a visit to my sister in May. It wasn't in flower when I bought it; I actually bought it because they had a special offer on if you bought five plants (I think it was five) from a selection of young perennials.

It is only in recent weeks that I have really started to appreciate what a beautiful plant it is. In spite of being a dwarf verbena the spikes of flowers stand tall above the plants around it, giving a lovely effect.

I, like you, now want lots of them but so far have been unable to find it in the garden centres. However I haven't tried B&Q, even though they are only a mile down the road. It is described as a hardy perennial on the label but, in view of what you have said, I think I will try and save seed in case it doesn't survive the ravages of a Sheffield winter.