Culver's Root is a wonderful perennial with a common name which bears the question "Who is Culver"? Friend Gail of Clay and Limestome fame has provided the information on the common name from the Prairie Moon Plant website. It is derived from the name Dr. Coulvert who found a medicial use for the plant in the 18th century. Dr. Coulvert may have the honor of the name but Native Americans used the plant as an emetic probably long before Dr. Coulvert examined its medicinal properties. I find that the genus name,Veronicastrum, is a much more descriptive name for this native herbaceous perennial as its flowers do resemble those of veronica which is a more familiar plant. Veronicastrum is widely distributed in the U.S. from the east coast to the mid-west. It will grow in zones 3-10 and tolerates a wide range of soil type and light although it is at home in the open woods, thickets and meadows. It is in the same family, Scrophulariaceae, as veronica. Snapdragons also are family members. There is much to recommend this plant for your perennial border. It has beautiful foliage. The leaves surround the stem in a whorled pattern and when the flowers do emerge in mid-summer they are spikes which do stand straight and tall with the caveat "if pinched". This plant is described as a plant with erect stems but I have found that left to its own devices it stands less than erect. I have it planted in full sun, partial shade, dry soil, moist soil and even lean soil. Perhaps it is the strain I am growing that flops. I saw a beautiful stand of Veronicastrum in an English garden the summer of 2011. It was at a garden called 'Woodpeckers' and the plant was dense with new growth in mid-June.
So dense,in fact, it took me a moment to realize what I was looking at. I asked the owner/gardener about the plant which had new growth at the top and he told me that they always do the "Chelsea Chop" on their Veronicastrum plants. I had not heard this term before so he explained that he pinches the plant by a good third during the time of the Chelsea Flower Show which takes place at the end of May. This year, I gave my plant by the front walkway the mid-June chop. Our winters are more severe than those of England and plants emerge a bit later so I adjusted the calendar accordingly.
There is no flopping on this plant by the walk which stands about three and a half feet tall.
Not so for those in the island garden which are a bit caddywhompus as are those in the long, sunny border where this plant would be six feet tall if it were not leaning against the fence.
I think it looks much nicer after the 'chop'. I am trying to find a apt name. One that will remind me to pinch this plant in June. I don't know, the 'Flag Day Chop' does not have much of a ring to it. Do you have any suggestions?