February 2018

Betony worthy of spot in sunny garden

Bet on this — Well-behaved betony ‘Hummelo’ blooms for several weeks in mid- to late summer. © Photo Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Bet on this — Well-behaved betony ‘Hummelo’ blooms for several weeks in mid- to late summer. © Photo Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A couple of weeks ago, a colleague asked me to help identify a perennial in her garden. It had square stems, low-growing leaves and several 12-inch stalks topped with dense, pink-lavender flowers.

It looked a lot like a sage (Salvia) and I scoured resources to confirm, but couldn’t find anything like it. Quite by accident, I came across the right plant, Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo,’ also called betony. You may also find it listed as S. officinalis and S. densiflora.

Stachys also is the scientific name for lamb’s ear, S. byzantina. Lamb’s ear is a silvery gray fuzzy leafed perennial that spreads rapidly. ‘Hummelo’ has crinkled, fresh-green leaves and grows in a clump.

“It’s a wonderful plant,” said John Platte, co-owner of Perennials Plus, a wholesale grower in Westfield, Ind. Although he does not sell to the public, he gets lots of feedback from the landscapers and other horticulture professionals as well as his own experience. ‘Hummelo’ is quite well behaved, he said, maintaining a tight clump form throughout the growing season. In a few years, the clump will get about 18 inches wide.

Sometimes called wood betony or alpine betony, this plant blooms from mid- to late summer. Removing the spent blooms, called deadheading, can extend this period. It prefers six or more hours of full sun a day. Like all stachys, it needs well-drained soil to thrive. Once established, it is drought tolerant. In fact, it is almost evergreen, retaining its green foliage well into winter. In spring, snip off winter-damaged leaves. Divide in spring every three or four years to remove the woody center.

© Photo Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

© Photo Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Appreciated for its texture and form, this plant is hardy throughout Indiana. Use in a border or mass them. A good cut flower, it can be grown in a container for summer enjoyment and transplanted to the garden in fall. It is deer resistant.

‘Hummelo’ got the highest marks in trials at the Chicago Botanic Garden, according to a report issued a few years ago. Good companion plants include coneflower (Echinacea), rattlesnake master or sea holly (Eryngium), Russian sage (Peroviskia), catmint (Nepeta), hardy geranium (Geranium) and stonecrop (Sedum).

‘Hummelo’ may be hard to find, so call your favorite garden center and ask if it is in stock. It also can be found through several Internet retailers.

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