32: Autumn 2013

Author: Judy Coulson

A Gift of a Packet of Seed

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A Gift of a Packet of Seed
Judy Coulson

A few years ago, I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to grow Centranthus ruber, red valerian, the one my Dad called ground lilac. I think of it as a typical Cottage Garden plant. My friend gave me a packet of Valeriana officinalis seeds, which wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I grew them anyway. They were easy, and produced many plants, which weren’t all the same. Some had a distinct purple tinge to the foliage, and there were varying leaf shapes. I placed them around the garden, and was rewarded with wonderful perfume from statuesque plants around 3ft high. The flowers are white to pink. As they go over, they produce seed with little parachutes, like dandelions.

The following year, I was surprised to see lots of unusual seedlings, and in June, the garden was full of valerian. The plants are similar to Verbena bonariensis, in their open habit. I was still pleased with them, and the following year, I dug up seedlings, and sold them at our plant sale. My friends loved them, and they sold well. Each year the plants get bigger, and can reach 6ft.

As the years go by, they have seeded in cracks in concrete, and between stones where I can’t get them out. Seedlings appear in my pots, insinuating their roots into my treasures. When a plant escapes my attention, and manages to flower, I have to cut off the flower head before it produces seed. I now have to weed them out, along with the willow herb and other pests. Whilst it fills the garden with delicious perfume, I wish I had never grown it.

I did eventually get Centranthus ruber, and although it is quite robust, it doesn’t produce seeds like its relative.

First published in the South Pennine Group Newsletter Autumn 2012
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 32.
© Copyright for this article: Judy Coulson

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2013. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.

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