Monday, January 16, 2012

Hypericum perforatum (and some others)

Not the showy St. John's Wort, or the shrub ones, but a rather unassuming wildflower that grows here. It's a European native, but was brought to this country early and now can be found in many places, along roadsides and in fields. It even seems to grow in light shade. It's only a foot or so tall in my gardens and for years I didn't know what it was. I finally took the time to find out and was pleasantly surprised. It was too pretty to be classified as a weed and so it got to stay. It didn't spread around or get in the way. I'm glad I left it since it has turned out to be a pretty little thing growing in a daylily bed where it is a little out of place, buy lovely just the same.

It was used as an infusion for coughs and colds, or made into an ointment to be put on bruises, scratches or insect bites.

The plant has been historically associated with John the Baptist, hence it's common name. John the Baptist's birthday was at the summer solstice, an important day even in pre-Christian times, and some think that the bright yellow flowers were associated with that day. In addition to the medicinal uses, plants of this herb were hung over doorways and used in exorcisms.

Since I've started on Hypericums, I might as well show you some of the others that we grow.

Hypericum 'Blue Velvet is a small shrub with blue green leaves and the bright yellow flowers that are typical of the Hypericums. Ours grows in light shade where it gets a half day of sun and seems quite happy.

This one is 'Hidcoat Variegated', about which I know nothing, I hate to admit. Hank bought it (I think he'd buy anything as long as it was variegated) and it seems happy here so far.

And last, this is 'Tricolor', though in sun, there are surely more that 3 colors, the pink, white and several shades of green. This, I think, is a zone 7 plant, but because we like it so much, we go to great pains to keep several of them alive. Without a wrap or cover of burlap over the winter, they wouldn't make it until spring. It has been very slow growing and took many years to finally flower. Still, it seems worth the extra fussing we need to do for it in the fall to prepare it for winter. We've had it in the gardens for at least 15 years, so we must be doing something right.


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