A Veronica puzzle

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.


5 thoughts on “A Veronica puzzle

  1. Kininvie I am not a veronicas expert but it doesn’t seem the same plant to me… I think it looks clooser to veronica porphyriana. Porphyry wasn’t Danish but he wasn’t less relevant though. 🙂 I think the name refers to the physical construction of the flower spikes. I hope I am wrong because I’d hate to ruin your believing about your very nice veronica. You wouldn’t watch it the same way again and I won’t forgive myself for this.

    Please don’t let us know how ended the Goldcrest wren’s story. Unless it is a happy ending.

    • I got it from a nursery that I normally trust to get things right….next time I’m there I shall ask them to check with their source. I agree that the V porphyriana flowers look right, but I think the leaves are different, though it’s hard to tell from the pictures. I’m not going to bother about it too much, as I suspect that to become a veronica expert would take more time than I have available…

  2. I enjoyed learning about the history of your veronica plant. I don’t know a lot about the early plant collectors, just the occasional story of a glass house erected on the poop deck and then thrown overboard in a storm, and maybe malaria. I wonder if your Douglas is the one that named about half the plants in Oregon… Regarding the baby birds, I expect you to buy them plane tickets if they aren’t up to flying themselves to Egypt. And there better be a nice funeral for the other one. And now who is letting the end of summer make them blue? Almost time for cider…

    • Yes, that was the same Douglas. Unfortunately he came to a sticky end when he fell into a bull trap with a bull already inside. I gather this was in Hawaii rather than Oregon, so you need not blame yourself excessively, although it just goes to show what happens to innocent travellers in the US. Cider? No, once I have finished cutting the bank, it will be the traditional half bottle of champagne – and well earned, I tell you.

  3. You know there is even a plant hunters garden devoted to all of them at Pitlochry. It’s all done in the name of the Empire, I fear. Interesting place, however. Sad about your little birds. I found a dead baby wren not long ago. And unfortunately I think one of our cats was the culprit.

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