Maybe you’ve already bumped into these photos on Pinterest or tumblr, which surfaced in May 2013, of some startlingly robust Verbena bonariensis bursting skyward from an enviable geodesic concrete container. The image is from the garden and blog of Svante Öquist, Svante’s World, and brings up a couple of good points. One would be that drought and water scarcity don’t mean you have to aim low for containers in summer. Choose something sturdy like this verbena, give it the cushy container life for summer, and stand back. Another point is not to be afraid of the ordinary. This verbena is so widely prescribed and grown as a slim, tough, butterfly-attracting, “see-through” plant for summer that it would never cause a collector’s heart to palpitate, and yet by simply taking it out of the ground and elevating it in a container an extraordinarily dramatic result is produced. Something else these images show is how just a single container alone can signify the flowering fecundity of summer, especially if it’s a show-stopper like this. Apart from the verbena, there’s little else in bloom. Summer doesn’t have to mean wall-to-wall flowers, an expectation that generally relies on steady amounts of water, at least here in summer-dry Southern California.
This quote from Mr. Öquist, executive director at Elle Decoration, reveals a charming self-awareness:
“Jätteverbenan, Verbena bonariensis , has become our ‘signature flower’ and is absolutely indispensable in our garden. It has become something of a sport to get it to grow bigger and bigger and I admit that I get an extra kick when passersby stop and say WOW! – More complicated than that, I’m not ;-)”
Mr. Öquist starts his plants from seed every year, so he gets this astonishing performance in one season. Here in Southern California it is a short-lived perennial and self-sows lightly. I had noticed a few seedlings near the mother plant in the back garden, which I intended to remove and compost, but after seeing these photos I dashed out in the rain to rescue them, potting them up for a trial in containers this summer.
(Oops, I think my competitive streak is showing…)