Great Plants this Month Summer

Valeriana officinalis

all-heal or cat’s valerian

image of Louise Sims
Louise Sims

You may already feel confused by its name but this elegant perennial has little to do with the red (or pink or white) valerian that is so commonly seen growing on walls, verges and banks all over the UK – that one is not Valeriana but Centranthus! Having said as much they are both in the family Caprifoliaceae to which honeysuckles and many others belong.

All-heal is native to the British Isles and is one that well deserves a prominent place in our gardens, not least because the domed clusters of tiny white flowers are very attractive to many pollinating insects. 

It all begins in the spring with a dense tuft of quite coarse, serrated foliage and before you know where you are, the tall, gently branching stems (up to 1.6m) are holding aloft the nectar rich flowers, rather like a white Verbena bonariensis.

It does self seed but not aggressively, and the seedlings are easy to weed out – or you could pot them up to give to your friends! This is an excellent border plant: it doesn’t need staking and is quite capable of holding its own in the general melee of things, and it looks very much at home in a cottage garden or naturalistic setting.

NB Louise has published a beautifully produced book of her plant profiles – A Plant for Each Week of the Year. It costs £9.99 and is for sale in our online shop here.

More NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

2 replies on “Valeriana officinalis”

Abelia! When my dearest mum died 3 years ago I took cuttings of Lavender and Abelia. The Abelia has grown into a beautiful shrub with arching stems. It looks like this year will be it’s first grownup summer. The foliage is also very attractive. Happy memories of summer days in my mum’s beautiful, bountiful and blooming Cornish garden.

Hi Susan, Elaine here. I’m so glad you agree with me about Abelia! It seems a very overlooked shrub to me, but it has pretty flowers, is wonderful for pollinating insects and, as you say, has lovely glossy foliage. It comes easily from cuttings too – a wonderful way to link your own garden with your mother’s, and keep those memories blooming beautifully. Thank you so much for writing in – I hope ‘it’s first grownup year’ is a triumph!

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