Friday, June 1, 2012

Valerian or All-Heal, A Calming Pause

Post 40

Roses and rhodos crown spring.  But after roses, what can  follow? Usually there is a pause.  In a normal year, which is not this year, most perennial gardens are a bit bare before the midsummer eyeopener of daylily, daisie, coneflower and monarda .

Which is why valerian, a perennial herb that looks like a giant Queen Anne's Lace, is such a useful plant. It steps forward as the roses end and then recedes as midsummer color takes over.

It is a tall, leggy herb with uplifted hands and head. Emerging out of a rosette of leaves the stems can grow up to 4 feet high. On its own the flower is pretty but lacks pizzazz. However, team it with some non-green ground covers and interesting flowers as they come and go, and it carries the garden through. Also, because it is tall, it is great behind smaller, denser plants. After bloom it can be cut back down to its nondescript green rosette. If you leave it standing after the peak of bloom seeds will set and you should get baby valerians, perhaps all over your yard. The seeds are light and travel in the wind. It is an easy plant to dig up and put elsewhere or give away.

It is not always an easy plant to buy. For like Corydalis lutea (Post 15,)  it has not been modified it into a patented commodity that warrants a marketing campaign. If a nursery carries Valerian, it is usually in the herb section, but since it is not a cooking herb you may need to ask for it. Or buy some seeds. Then, in two years you will have tall, lovely plants.

It's full name is Valeriana officinalis.  It can be called garden heliotrope, which is really another plant (cherry pie,) and red valerian, which is also really another plant (Jupiter's Beard.) Valerian has been called all-heal since medieval times because there is a medicine made from its roots, which, when properly prepared and administered, has a gentle calming effect.

So, if you have a space in sun or semi-shade that gets adequate water and needs some sprucing up this time of year, -- consider adding the sweet-smelling presence of this plant.

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