THE VERBENA, Verbena hybrid
ALTHOUGH there is no such plant in the learned books as Verbena hybrida, the name may be allowable now as compassing the fact, and as suggesting interesting possibilities. A flower has been formed from the inter-crossing of Verbena melindres, V. Tweediana, V. incisa, and other species of South American origin, and this compound we call the verbena, which, in its collective character, may for garden purposes have the rank of a species. It is not improbable that it has the power of a species too, for the cultivators cross the varieties only now, fearing to spoil the flower by the introduction of any more alien blood. The great range of variation of this favourite is explained by its origin : it presents us with all colours save yellow, but its range is chiefly in the shades of red and purple, passing to pure white in one direction, and purple-blue in another. The parent species were introduced to cultivation from 1826 to 1837, and therefore we may regard the present subject as somewhat of a novelty, although, in the language of the garden, the verbena is quite an old flower, because we have seen it come in and go out of fashion. Its beauty remains--change of fashion does not affect that; and its usefulness is not greatly diminished, even though the verbena is no longer in much request as a bedding subject.
The generic name refers to the vervain, or ferfain of Celtic superstition. This, the Verbena officinalis of British botany, was in great repute in pagan times as a herb of sacrifice and a medicine of great power. The Roman poets frequently allude to it, and the later gatherers of mystic lore found it useful to adorn their verses. Spenser associates the "dull poppy" with the "vein-healing verven;" and Drayton declares the "holy vervayne" to be "gainst witchcraft much availing." The vervain is as nearly destitute as may be of any useful property, and the South American verbenas are in the like case; they have but their beauty to recommend them, and that is sufficient.
The garden verbena fell from its high estate in a way that many other favourites have fallen: not through the frown of public disfavour, but by the prevalence of a mortal plague. What was called "verbena disease" compelled in many cases a discontinuance of the cultivation; but as the plant fell into neglect the disease disappeared, and its health and vigour were restored--a fact very suggestive of the evil of what has been termed "over-cultivation." The fact is, the gardeners had to crowd and starve thousands of plants to keep pace with the demands of the bedding system, and the verbena suffered most of any, for the sufficient reason that it cannot endure to be crowded and starved. It requires generous culture, in a somewhat pure air; and being nearly hardy, debility of constitution must result from crowding it in warm houses for months together, to be followed by planting it in poor soil to brave the summer heat with insufficient root hold.
The verbena requires a rich loamy soil, a somewhat moist position, and a free and pure air. The heat of the stove is deadly to it; and to be dry at the root for any length of time--as must happen often when large numbers of plants are wintered with the aid of but few attentions--is certainly injurious, if not deadly. When employed for bedding, the plants should be wintered in a cool, airy house, with the aid of sufficient heat to keep out frost; and a new stock should be propagated from cuttings of the tender-growing tops in the month of March. When carefully managed, these young plants have the vigour of seedlings, and when planted out at the end of May, in beds of rich loamy soil, make a free growth and flower superbly. It is not good at any time to pot rooted runners or to divide old plants; it is always best to make plants from cuttings in the autumn, and from these to make a fresh stock from cuttings in the spring. The verbena roots so readily, and is of such kindly growth when treated fairly, that there should be no difficulty in its management as one of the best of plants for the summer flower garden.
As a frame plant, to grow into specimen form, the verbena is of great value. For this purpose, a beginning should be made with autumn cuttings, and in the spring these should be put into five-inch pots, and be shifted on until they fill eight-inch pots, the growth being trained out on a wire balloon, or any kind of trellis that may be preferred. Having flowered, they should be destroyed, and the stock of specimens kept up by a succession of young plants.
It is a simple matter, and especially worthy of the attention of amateur cultivators, that the verbena may be grown as an annual from seed, and will afford a delightful display of colour in the summer and autumn. The seed may be sown in autumn, and the plants may be wintered on a shelf near the glass, and being shifted in March to insure vigour of growth, may be planted out in May for flowering. But where this routine might be inconvenient, sowing in March will suffice; a moderate heat will soon bring up the seed, and the young plants will need only the usual treatment of half-hardy annuals to insure the most satisfactory results.
Title: THE VERBENA, Verbena hybrid Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
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