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Many years ago when I first started the perennial border I decided to try some valerian. I was looking for red valerian, Centranthus ruber, which is a rather nice cottage garden plant with red flowers and gray green foliage. It grows about 24"-30" in height. I don't have a picture because I did not purchase that plant. I did purchase three plants with that tag but it was from a small grower who apparently knew about as much as I about this particular perennial. Latin is no help when a plant is tagged incorrectly. It helps if you know what the plant looks like but if you are a beginner and just planning the garden big surprises can result! I mean really big! Like seven feet tall. Tucker, once again, has graciously agreed to provide scale for this plant. Click on the picture to enlarge.
As you can see, I have many more than three plants now! Valeriana officianalis,in addition to being called valerian, is also called garden heliotrope. Sometimes the fragrance is very sweet and then, at other times, it smells like dirty socks. It was initially disappointing to see the growth on this plant. I was expecting red and moderate in height and this plant just kept growing and growing and then the flowers were white. White is a great color for the garden. It accentuates the strong reds and pinks and it shows up well at night. It is an interesting addition to the garden and it is very prolific, reseeding here, there and everywhere.
It is unusual for a perennial to reach this size and bloom so early in the summer. It is a back of the border plant and I think it adds a romantic charm to the garden. As hard as I try to deadhead it before it reseeds, some escape. It is easy to pull out of the garden when you are weeding and it is easy to identify in the spring. I do doubt that I could ever totally eradicate it.
I have come to accept its' gracious presence in the border and it is a plant which always elicits a comment. Have any of you ever bought a plant that was incorrectly tagged? How about valeriana officianalis? What do you think of it?