My new favorite perennial plant is Verbena bonariensis, also known as Purpletop Vervain. I planted it in mass on one side of my courtyard next to my olive trees and white iceberg roses, and I have really been enjoying it. It is very low maintenance with high "plant appeal."
It is native to South American and has naturalized in California. It does best in USDA Zones 6-10, prefers sun, and little water. It is a tall structural plant, 4'-6' high and at least 2' wide at maturity. Yet it has this airy quality which brings lightness and motion to a garden setting rather than density. It has clusters of captivating lavender-hued flowers that bloom prolifically from summer to fall. It is an incredible magnet for butterflies and delightful birds such as hummingbirds and goldfinch as an added bonus. Verbena bonariensis can reseed easily and aggressively, so be careful where you plant it.
There is even a dwarf version called Verbena bonariensis 'Little One' which reaches 18-24" high by 12-18"wide in size. A good source for both of these Verbenas is Cedros Gardens, (tel) (858) 792-8640, in the heart of Solana Beach's Cedros Design District.
Here are some tips for using Verbena bonairensis in your garden. Plant it in mass like I did, either as a background or in a foreground as it has such a nice "see-through" quality. It pairs well planted among roses, as mentioned in Carolyn Parker's everything rose blog, Rose Notes. Since it takes hot and dry conditions very well, think about planting it in your driest garden spots. I planted Verbena bonariensis "Little One' directly in my pea gravel around my water fountain. It looks like a cheery volunteer, yet adds interest and a dab of color. Or plant it in a dry spot along a flagstone pathway for a little bit of a surprise element for those walking by.
Please share if you have Verbena bonariensis in your garden. Please comment on how you have it planted and styled in your garden.