After a few weeks of high winds sweeping our hilltop, many of the Verbena bonariensis stems went from rakish angles to almost horizontal, leaning heavily on their neighbours.
I coarsely staked the worst-affected clump closest to the house, to assess whether supporting them would be viable, but it was clear that they were rather beyond staking as I couldn’t easily lift them beyond an untidy 45°. Given how their horizontal recline was endangering the emerging aster and anemone to their left, it was time for a more drastic approach.
Initially I cut the offending verbena stems back to leaf nodes about a foot above the ground, and pondered leaving them to see whether they would overwinter and return – straighter – next year. Stepping down into the garden, there was a sudden sense of airiness at my side; the six- or seven-foot tall plants had felt slightly oppressive by contrast, and now the border seemed to breathe deeply and relax.
As the Verbena was unlikely to survive a hard winter after such drastic blade-work at this time of year, it wasn’t long before I accepted that there was enough of it drifting further down the border, and it was no longer necessary, or quite working for us, here. A few minutes with a spade, and the clump was liberated completely. The space was quickly filled with a young Helenium, The Bishop, waiting patiently in a pot, whose yellow flowers should work well against the blues and oranges nearby.
With the thicket of Verbena removed from this section, the blues of salvia, geranium and campanula sing out. I was happily surprised when two or three of the Crocosmia corms that I left in place around the Echinacea turned out to be a lovely golden yellow, rather than the standard orange type which romp nearby.
The yellow forms a lovely contrast with the dark stems of the Echinacea, also working well with the pinky purple flowers above, and the deeper blues nearby, and really ties the colours in this area together.
The yellow Helenium will continue this, along with a Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ that has just opened its first flower nearby, against the last red blooms of Crocosmia Lucifer.
I continue to edit other bits and pieces in the border, removing one of the sprawled Salvia turkestanicas whose flowers were fading fast, to give the lovely (and previously rather clashing) Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ breathing space. Working in this border is much more pleasant without the slightly sweaty scent of the salvia, though I shall leave its brethren in the opposite border to set seed and hopefully return, as I have loved their display all summer.
This border is busier than ever with bees and butterflies, a dozen or more Small Tortoiseshells fluttering every time I pass, so I don’t feel too bad about removing one of their favourites.