A verbena that doesn’t really look like a verbena is our plant of the month for August. Verbena officinalis var. grandiflora ‘Bampton’ always catches the eye for its stunning coloured foliage and beautiful, delicate spikes of lilac flowers.
Verbena is a big group of plants and ‘Bampton’ is one that stands out from its siblings due to its striking foliage. The plant reaches around 40cm tall and has dark purple stems with a branching habit, as well as glossy leaves that are the same colour. Together they create a light ‘feathery’ feel.
Usually they take a few weeks to settle and will then flower continuously until the first frosts in late October. ‘Bampton’ likes to be grown in an open sunny position in well-drained soil that is humus rich. Softwood cuttings are taken from the plant in late August and they are kept under glass through the autumn and then potted up in late winter. They are placed outside to harden off once the worst of the winter has passed.
At RHS Garden Hyde Hall you can find ‘Bampton’ growing in containers where it does very well. This year we've combined it with Glandularia ‘Sissinghurst’, a close relative with cerise flowers that cascade around the edge of the pot and a good colour contrast. Helichrysum petiolare with its silvery foliage is another good alternative – it trails brilliantly, or try Zinnia ‘White Profusion’ for a softer tone. Many of the smaller grasses such as Hordeum jubatum with their tactile, feathery flowers would also combine well with ‘Bampton’ in a container.
In a mixed border try ‘Bampton’ among permanent perennial planting, such as the orange Crocosmia ‘Spitfire’, or with other purple-flowered selections such as Limonium platyphyllum ‘Violetta’. For architectural contrast try it with Eryngium giganteum with its spiky, silvery bracts.