A few years ago, when the official word came down from Garden Command Central, I ran out and bought some Verbena bonariensis.
It's done amazingly well in my garden. The bees love it. The butterflies love it. The goldfinches love it. Ron loves it.
Unfortunately, I kind of hate it.
To me, Verbena bonariensis is the most over-hyped and over-rated plant out there today, starting with the color. Some call it rose-purple. Others call it lavender. I call it blah.
The plant's common name is "Verbena on a Stick," which gives you a good idea of its habit. Garden designers say it's airy and architectural. I say it's spindly and weak. Mine are nearly 6 feet tall, and since the stems at the flower heads are particularly thin, a good rainfall - or a half-ounce goldfinch - can easily bend them. By September the plant is a mess.
Shall I go on? It self-seeds everywhere, with a grows-between-cracks vigor that makes annual Vinca look like an amateur. For good measure, it gets powdery mildew every year, no matter what I do. The mildew doesn't seem to hurt the plant, but it doesn't do much for its looks, either.
And yet it stays. Every winter I vow to rip it out and plant something else. Every spring it gets a reprieve. Partly it's because I'm outnumbered - Ron, the goldfinches, the bees, and the butterflies all like it, so that settles that. Partly it's because when I'm in a generous mood, I will concede that it has a few good qualities. To wit: it flowers like an annual, even thought it's a perennial in Zone 7b. It's better than having a goldfinch feeder - no need to buy niger seed, plus you never have to refill it. The seedlings, though plentiful, are easy to identify and easy to pull. And in a certain light, at a certain angle, after a glass of wine, it can look pretty.
Even so, I'm still not sure why Verbena bonariensis became the "It" plant. Inevitably, the fad will peak and the now ubiquitous VB will meet the fate of the Stella De Oro daylily: a victim of its own success. Landscape designers will shun it (too cliched) and serious home gardeners will roll their eyes at the mere mention of it (too common, and doesn't make up for it by being native).
Gardeners are one tough crowd to please.
The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
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