HARDY PERENNIALS: CENTRANTHUS

C. ruber. This is one of the easiest and longest flowering of ‘old fashioned’ hardy plants, one which will colonise from self sown seed. It will grow in any soil, however poor and even on a dry wall. When naturalized it is mostly the pinkish shade of colour, but the red, C. ruber coccinea is much brighter and more attractive. Plants flower at about 2l/2 feet from June onwards, but to prevent nuisance seeding, they should be cut back before seed ripens and falls to the ground. This plant as might be expected goes under more than one common name. It was botanically known as Valeriana and commonly called Valerian; certain medicinal properties are attached to Valerian, but this applies to those that still come under Valeriana. One of these has some garden value. It is V. sambucifolia—the Elder leaved Valerian, which grows to 5 feet or so, bearing heads of shell pink flowers from June to August. The heads are up to 9 inches across and much liked by bees and butterflies. The only fault with this plant is that in the moist soil it prefers, stems sometimes become top heavy and that one sometimes finds self sown seedlings coming up in or close to other plants. Otherwise it is an easy pleasing subject and quite adaptable as to soil, in full sun or partial shade. Another name for Centranthus ruber is ‘Keys of Heaven’ and it would be of interest to know the origin of such a name.

CENTRANTHUS ruber

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