Stachys albens – a Californian perennial

Last year I bought a distinctive stachys from June Blake’s garden. It was a stiffly upright plant with lovely wooly leaves and small white flowers. I was warned that it was a bit of a spreader.

stachys calif june blake july

It is indeed a bit of a difficult plant to control and spreads, rather like mint, by creeping stems that leap over the soil surface as well as by underground stems. I think this makes it a bit tricky to use effectively but it is undoubtedly a lovely looking plant. The leaves are softly furry and the plant is at its best in late spring when the stems are short. By the time it gets to August and the flowers open it can sprawl and flop a bit but not, in fairness, as much as Stachys lanata*. In theory it should be a good bee plant although I have not noticed that it is particularly attractive to bees though we seem to have a deficiency of bees this year anyway. I have it beside and under roses where it works well and it would look good in the same place with nepeta. The stems take up water well as a cut flower too so, despite its weaknesses I think it is a useful and attractive plant.

It is a Californian native and should tolerate drought. Here it is growing in almost full sun in rather heavy soil so it seems fairly adaptable.

* I have had to amend this because, in reality, it is sprawled across the soil like a drunken teenager on a sofa. A redeeming feature is that is does throw up sideshoots from these lax stems to partially disguise its errant behaviour – unlike the throwing up the teenager would do!

 

Geoff’s rating 7/10

Garden rating 7/10

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