Thursday, August 20, 2015

Large and Lush

Comfrey, symphytum officinale

Large and lush, my symphytum officinale is taking up some real estate these days. A member of the borage family, symphytum or comfrey is a broad-leaved herb with hairy leaves and blue flowers. Typically it blooms May through early July, but mine has really spread out and appears to be setting up a second flush of bloom this year.

Many plants in the garden are in that tired green mode of the late summer mature foliage. Not comfrey. It even went through a heavy hail storm with little to no damage. It was a hail storm which did some damage to the large mature leaves of my hosta sheltered by the branches of my mighty white pine; so a heavier than normal hail storm.

Comfrey is not a new plant in my garden, but it has definitely been a garden lurker for the past few years.  Crowded into my garden's Long Border, previously shaded by my forsythia which I removed this spring, it had not come into its own. In the pictures in the link, it is like a small child holding on to the skirts of the forsythia.

With tall, airy sky-scaping daylilies (alternating with yellow irises in spring) and a sweet autumn clematis planted behind it, unseen at this angle; it provides a mounded mass in the border which I find attractive.

Mine is easily 3' wide and 2' high which seems to be outside the normal dimensions given. While it has always bloomed in the partial shade of the forsythia, this year it has really stepped up its game. I have read many articles stating it is not suited for planting in the perennial border because of its uninteresting leaves. I would argue that opinion. Broad-leaved perennials which thrive in this zone in full sun are not thick on the ground. It provides a nice counterpoint to the grassier foliage and small foliage of the other plants in my Long Border.

The Missouri Botanical Garden has it listed as clay tolerant, although I grow it in a sandy loam; emphasis on sandy, although improved over time with lots of organic material. Heat and drought tolerant it certainly is, although through the Drought of 2012 it received weekly watering. It has also come through the Horrid Winter of 2013.

If you can find this plant, you may want to include it in your garden. Mine was a pasalong, purchased at a plant sale in Oshkosh, dug on the spot. I knew this plant for its blue flowers. I have not seen it retail. Similar to borage, it will set seed and spread by self-seeding. Mine has yet to generate any noticeable offspring in five years.

No comments:

Post a Comment