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Mambo Verbascum; a Latin Musician in the Garden

Verbascum Caribbean CrushAt first, I did not remember why I chose not to plant Verbascum.  After all, it is an attractive looking perennial. Over the years, it have never seen it displayed prominently at any of the nurseries I frequent and it never occured to me to plant it. The big box stores would carry it in tiny pots but the flowers always looked messy, as they struggled to find their patch of sunshine. In fact, very little grows at big box stores in 2 inch pots that can make our hearts sing.

Last spring, in the opening weeks of business, my favorite nursery displayed a new variety of Verbascum, already in bloom. I could not resist purchasing some for my own and my clients’ gardens. The variety is called Caribbean Crush and its hot coloration makes me want to get up and dance the Mambo! The configuration of the multicolor ruffled petals, ranging in shades of mango, yellow and rosy peach, is reminiscent of the ruffled sleeves worn by conga drum players in the Cuban dance bands of the 1950’s.

My adventurousness was rewarded when I discovered that this perennial would bloom for three months from June to August, as long as the spent stalks were removed. It was rather disappointing to see it reach dormancy at the end of the season, because it had been visually entertaining. I cannot say that it truly fit into my personal cool colored garden but it did look great in the gardens of clients that asked for showstoppers.

I found this effective composition of Salvia and Verbascum [ the pink flowers are not identified] at < Gardens of a Golden Afternoon >. Click on the image to visit a beautiful site.The perennial grows almost 4 feet tall, in sun, in zones 5 to 9. It needs a well-   drained soil because wet soil will lead to its demise. Eventually, I remembered why I never planted Verbascum in the past. It is a short- lived perennial. The nursery had posted that information on their website and I had overlooked it. If it does not return to bloom this coming season, I will not be disappointed, because it gave me, and my clients, great pleasure. Some gardeners will pay for only one season’s delight when a plant is too beautiful to ignore.

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Reader Comments (4)

I agree with your dislike of Verbascum because it is of the family mullein, which can grow all summer, take up a ton of space, then shoot up a big yellow spike - also named arctic summer. But I do like to have horticultural variety and encourage non hybridized cultivars, woodland plants, prairie flowers like chickory - so like to give room to what might be odd in an odd urban garden. I think the birds and bugs appreciate the less exotic fancies. Back to verbascum. I don't much like stocks which are similar to verbascum varieties in that they droop and the dead flowers remain on the stem alongside the blooming ones, (like holyhocks and lillies) and their scent is like cheap fake perfume.

March 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Thanks for sharing! I love the picture at the end with the salvias, that scene is absolutely gorgeous. Just wanted to add that the unidentified pink flowers in the picture are called Jupiters Beard. My mother has had the Southern Charm variety of Verbascum in her garden for 10+ years, so it must really like her dry, alkaline soil. I don't know about this particular variety, but ornamental verbascum may not be as short-lived as is reported.

June 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

Hi, the pink flower is Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber Coccineus. A common wild flower around the UK

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

I'm loving 'Crush,' the huge silvery leaves of 'Arctic Summer' and purple 'Violetta' in my NoCa garden and am growing them easily from seed for next year. Please identify the white flower poking through the salvias (or agastache)?

March 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Vuster

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