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Vermont Garden Journal: Native Perennial Culver's Root For Late-Summer Gardens

Culver's root, or Veronicastrum, grows up to seven feet tall and is adapted to wet soil and partial or full sun.
Culver's root, or Veronicastrum, grows up to seven feet tall and is adapted to wet soil and partial or full sun.

I've been enjoying the late-summer, tall perennials in many gardens. Perennial flowers, such as "Golden Glow" Rudbeckia, plume poppy and Joe Pye weed, add a nice backdrop to other flowers and put on quite a show themselves. Plus, many of these tall perennials are natives that help wildlife, bees and butterflies.

One tall, summer perennial that's getting more attention is a native called culver's root or Veronicastrum. Culver's root grows up to seven-feet-tall and is adapted to wet soil and partial or full sun. It's in the Veronica family and in late-summer produces spikes of white or pale blue flowers that look like candlelabras. The flower spikes are unique since they bloom from the top down. This native plant is a favorite of birds, bees and butterflies. Because it tolerates wet soil, it's a good plant to grow near a pond, stream bank or rain garden. It also pairs well in a perennial garden. It is claimed that the roots have laxative properties when eaten.

Another tall wildflower perennial that blooms late is iron weed or Veronia. Although it has a similar latin name to Veronicastrum, Veronia is in the aster family. This common wildflower grows up to six-feet-tall with dark purple flowers in late-summer that turn into fluffy, attractive seed heads. Like culver's root, iron weed grows well in wet soils and in partial to full sun. It's called iron weed for its tough, rigid stems. It's not a tall perennial that will flop over in a wind storm. However, iron weed also likes to spread by seed, so if you want to keep it contained, deadhead religiously. If you're growing a butterfly garden, iron weed is a must since the colorful American Painted Lady butterfly loves it.

Now for this week's tip: it's pear season. Harvest wild and cultivated pears by taking the fruit in your hand and tilting it horizontally. The mature fruit will easily come away from the branch at this angle.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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