I’m in love with Veronica, the spike speedwells that make such terrific perennials in my USDA Zone 5 garden. I probably grow more than a dozen cultivars, but I’ve sort of lost track. Every time I see one, I grab it. Plant collecting…what can I say?
This installment will be the first of several throughout the season. The earlier-blooming cultivars (those that bloom here in late May and early June) have hit their stride. I’ll showcase later-blooming favorites sometime in July. So from my garden to yours, here are a few dashing selections that you should rush out and find. I’ve cited sources at the end of each entry.
Flying in at number one is the exquisite diva ‘Eveline’. Born of two unidentified parents, this orphan has grown into one of the best speedwells on the market, in my never too humble opinion. Showy and elegant, long spires of amethyst purple rise above clean, glossy foliage in early June. Cut it back after the first round and you’ll get rebloom in another month! ‘Eveline’ grows admirably from Houston to St. Paul and pairs happily with roses (I’ve got it next to a Flower Carpet®) and Helen’s flowers (Helenium). Garden Crossings carries this all-round winner, as does your local garden center I’m sure. If it doesn’t, do some prodding.
Number two on the list is a new addition to the garden and a new species to the growing cadre of speedwells in my head. Veronica gentianoides ‘Variegata’ blooms first in the veronica parade; it goes great with standard dwarf bearded irises in mid-May. Up-close it definitely looks like a speedwell but from a distance it solicits such eloquent remarks as “what’s that variegated thingy with the blue wands?” or the stodgier “what IS this?” The variegation, primarily confined to the leaf margins, so far seems consistent and clean on this tidy, ground-hugging speedwell. Commonly called gentian speedwell, it doesn’t appear to have gotten much traction in this country yet–a pitiful fate indeed. I snatched it up last summer on my visit to Wisconsin-based plant-grail The Flower Factory.
Number three is also a recent addition, a dwarf selection of the naturally short Veronica spicata called ‘Baby Doll’. Introduced for its floriferousness, ‘Baby Doll’ was bred and selected by Dutch plant breeder Jan Verschoor. At only 10-12″ tall, ‘Baby Doll’ prefers front and center attention in the border making friends with Fragaria vesca ‘Lipstick’ (pink strawberry) and Callirhoe involucrata var. involucrata (poppy mallow) in our garden.