This column is a collection of short topics beginning with V, and will begin with a compliment for veronica.
Veronica is a rather undistinguished perennial, although it usually puts on a good show of violet spiky blooms in June, and if dead-headed regularly, will keep blooming sporadically all summer. No diseases or pests seem to bother veronica, and one of its main attractions for me is it lures in hosts of bees and butterflies.
Most summers, my Russian sage is alive with bees, but this year only a few stragglers have arrived, so I am glad to see some around the veronica.
If you have to put up with pesky mammals in the garden, then one of the more interesting is the vole.
If they decide to visit you, one morning you will find the lawn marked like a detailed road map with raised surface mounding that is the roof of their tunnels. They are small rodents with short legs and tails; their thick fur is brown or gray. Voles eat a wide variety of plants, including seeds, grasses bulbs and tubers.
Voles can be trapped or poisoned, but in our neighborhood they visited briefly last summer and then moved on after a few days. They did little damage.
Virginia bluebells add a welcome touch of blue to the early spring garden and contrast beautifully with the daffodils. Their blue-gray leaves appear in April, with deep blue flowers following. They like part-shade and moist soil.
After a few weeks of bloom, the plants go dormant in late June, unable to grow in hot sun. They appreciate an occasional dose of the same plant food you use for azaleas, hydrangeas and other acid-loving plants.
Verbena is one of the plants that has seen great changes in recent years. Originally found in pink or lavender shades, and growing to 2 or 3 feet tall, we now can find specimens in additional shades of peach, red and blue that grow close to the ground or trail for use in baskets and containers.
Some varieties have a lovely honey-like scent.
Viburnum is a shrub that may be deciduous or evergreen in our area, depending on its location.
Further south, in zone 6, the leaves hold on for the winter, but put out all new leaves in the spring. Here, they will probably drop, but there is no twig die-back.
Viburnum "Alleghanny" blooms in late spring with 3- to 4-inch clusters of white flowers and has reddish berries in the summer that turn black in fall. In the right place with full sun to partial shade, it will grow to an average of 8 feet tall and about the same in width.
Vinca, or periwinkle, is a useful ground cover that grows quickly and will cover stony areas, steep banks or other problem places.
A reliable evergreen with trailing habit, the long green shoots root themselves as they go, which habit makes it very difficult to eradicate if you change your mind. (Ask me, I know!) The flowers are lavender blue and bloom in spring.