With 500 species in the veronica family, it’s not surprising things get a bit confused. I grow several dwarf veronicas in my scree garden, but the one I wanted to write about is veronica wormskjoldii, partly because this is a very useful rock garden plant at this time of year, but also because of its discoverer.
Here is the plant I grow:However, you only need to look at Google’s collection of images to realise that this plant (if it is the same) grows completely differently in its native US habitat. Some plants do this, I know – but the differences here look pretty extreme. Any feedback on this from American readers?
Anyway, assuming that this is indeed v.wormskjoldii, I recommend it for providing rare late summer colour in the rock garden and for being an amenable, decent plant, with no bad habits. It spreads very slowly, but layers naturally, and you can multiply it by cutting the layered shoots in Autumn and moving them in Spring.
I think we are too chauvanistic about our plant hunters. Scotland has produced a good crop of them, including Forrest, Douglas, Menzies and Sherriff. Yet who, outside Denmark, has heard of Morten Wormskjold? Yet here was a botanist and naturalist, driven by that early 19th century lust for knowledge, who spent a year in Greenland and two years in Kamchatka, when both were even less well know than they are now. Whenever I look at my veronica, I think of Wormskjold, stuck at the farthest ends of the earth in the bogs of Kamchatka, tracking down the plants that we can now enjoy without stirring further than our local plant nursery…..
In other news:
I fear for my pair of swallows. They embarked on a second brood terribly late in the year and are now desperately feeding their chicks. It will be at least another two weeks before the young ones fly, and they won’t have much time to build up their strength for the journey to Egypt. Already the older birds are beginning to gather on the telephone wires. It won’t be long before they are gone, and then it will be late April before they return.
Today I also found a Goldcrest wren, Britain’s smallest bird, which had flown into a window. I fear it has broken a wing, in which case there is no hope for it. I shall put it out of the reach of cats for 24 hours in case I am wrong and it recovers. But I’m afraid I may have to kill it to spare it further suffering. Not a task I shall enjoy.