Veronica – Veronica spicata

The species Veronica spicata is an herbaceous perennial which forms an attractive tub plant for a patio. It creates a wealth of blue flowers in spires 7.5-1 5cm (3-6in) long from June to August on plants 1 5-38cm (6-1 5in) high.

Beautiful varieties

In addition to the popular species there are several superbly coloured varieties of Veronica but some are slightly taller-growing. They include ‘Red Fox’ with erect, tapering spires up to 35cm (14in) packed with red flowers; ‘Barcarolle’ which reveals rich rosy-pink spires up to 45cm (18in) high; ‘Alba’ which displays white flowers in spires up to 45cm (18in) high; and ‘Pavane’, which has attractive greyish-green leaves and 60cm (2ft) high spires of deep pink flowers.

Display ideasVeronica - Veronica spicata

A large-surfaced tub on a patio— rather than a window-box— creates the best place for these summer brighteners. Their tooth-edged, mid-green leaves — or the beautiful greyish leaves of the variety ‘Pavane’ — create a superb foil for the spire-like flowerheads. Set the plants 15-30cm (6-12in) apart, so that the foliage quickly spreads over the edge of j the tub for a soft effect.

Other Veronicas

  • L. Veronica gentianoides is another relatively low- .. growing species, some 23-38cm (9-15in) high. Its glossy-green, lance-shaped leaves create a foil for the 15cm (6in) high spires packed with pale blue flowers.
  • Veronica incana is 30— 38cm (12-15in) high, with bright, silvery-grey leaves and bluish flowers borne in 15cm (6in) long spires from June to August.
  • Veronica pinnata ‘Blue Eyes’ is a superb low-growing type, about 20cm (8in) high, with beautiful spires of light blue flowers.

Propagation

Being herbaceous perennials, Veronicas are easily increased by lifting and dividing established plants in autumn or spring — usually every three years. In mild areas do this job in autumn, but in cold regions and when growing these plants in tubs which may be exposed to cold, drying and freezing winds, spring is the better time. Herbaceous plants are those which die down to soil-level in late autumn and create fresh stems, leaves and flowers the following year. Therefore, the roots need to be protected from very cold weather during winter, and often the best way to ensure that they are not damaged is to leave the plants in their tub during winter and to lift and divide them only in spring.

When lifting and dividing herbaceous plants, only replant pieces taken from the outside of the clump. These are the youngest parts, and usually the healthiest. Old parts towards the centre often become woody and non-productive of shoots, and are best discarded. Replant each new plant firmly, spreading out the roots and watering the soil to settle it around them. Avoid creating pockets of air around roots.

Pests And Diseases

Veronicas are usually trouble-free plants, but during a wet season diseases may invade them and pests such as slugs often become a problem.

Powdery mildew produces a powdery white coating on the leaves and stems, eventually affecting the flowers. The condition is caused by a fungus disease.

Treatment: Use a proprietary fungicide at regular intervals as soon as this disease is noticed.

Aphids may infest the soft tips of shoots, as well as leaf joints.

Treatment: Spray the plant several times with a suitable insecticide. Spray as soon as these pests are noticed and repeat if necessary.

Slugs are often a problem in a wet season, chewing the leaves and leaving trails of unsightly slime.

Treatment: Slug baits and sprays quickly control them.

PLANT CARE

Cut the plants down to soil-level in late autumn, removing all debris and tidying up the surface soil.

  • Potting: Plant in spring in a tub. Plants do not need to be repotted, other than lifting and dividing the rootstock every three years.
  • Keep the compost moist during spring and summer, applying more water as the plant grows. In winter, keep the compost barely moist. If the winter season is extremely wet, cover the compost with polythene.
  • Feeding: Initially, use a fertile soil compost, then apply fertilizer every three to four weeks.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: Choose a position in full sun or light shade on a patio.
  • Temperature: Veronicas are hardy patio plants, but avoid positioning them in cold and windy places.

Buying Tips

  • In spring, from garden centres, nurseries, and specialists who grow herbaceous perennials and sell them by mail order.
  • Choose a plant with healthy foliage. Avoid those with badly damaged or broken leaves.
  • Veronicas are long-lived, and if plants become congested they can easily be increased by dividing the roots in autumn or, preferably, spring.

Veronica creates an attractive carpet of tooth-edged, mid- green leaves which highlight and contrast with spires of small blue, pink, white or red flowers from June to August.

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