There is a feast of colour during high summer in the garden and it is hard to know which plant to highlight this month as there are so many to choose from! One plant that is relatively new to us that always catches the eye is a beautiful cultivated version of the wild vervain, Verbena officinalis.
Verbena officinalis var. grandiflora ‘Bampton’ is a tender plant and high summer is a great time to highlight this range of plants as they are now looking at their best. All our tender plants are planted out in late May and early June (once the risk of frost has passed), and they take a few weeks to settle into their new positions – but they will then continue flowering up until the first frosts in late October. As with many tender bedding plants Verbena ‘Bampton’ likes to be grown in an open sunny position in well-drained soil that is humus rich. We take softwood cuttings in late August: these are kept under glass through the autumn and winter, and then placed outside in early spring to harden off once the worst of the winter has passed.
Verbenas are a big group of plants and ‘Bampton’ is one that stands out from its siblings due to its striking foliage. The plant reaches around 40cm (16in) tall and both its stems and narrow leaves are dark purple and glossy. Its stems have a branching nature, which combined with the narrow leaves creates a very light ‘feathery’ feel to the plant. The small flower spikes are pale lilac which contrasts wonderfully with the dark purple foliage and it is the combination of the fine foliage and lighter-coloured flowers that always catches our visitors' eyes.
At RHS Garden Hyde Hall you can find Verbena ‘Bampton’ growing in containers where it does very well and this year it is combined with Glandularia ‘Homestead Purple’. This is a close relative of Verbena and it has very dark purple flowers and a trailing habit which ensures it cascades around the edge of the pot. Helichrysum petiolare with its silvery foliage would also work well in this situation as it trails brilliantly or for a shorter infill try Zinnia ‘White Profusion’ with its white flowers acting as a good colour contrast.
Many of the smaller grasses such as Pennisetum or Stipa tenuissima would also combine well with Verbena ‘Bampton’ in a container. Verbena ‘Bampton’ could also be used in mixed borders where tender plants are added amongst the permanent perennial planting, it would work well contrasting with oranges such as Crocosmia ‘Spitfire’ or other purple tones such as Limonium platyphyllum ‘Violetta’.
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