Try on these Skullcaps–Plant Fix

Scutellaria alpina 'Rainbow' shows its stuff

I planted two cultivars of Scutellaria (Skullcap or Helmet flower) in my “dry garden” the fall of 2008 and I’ve become quite attached to them.  Providing ornamental effects not dissimilar to a catmint—they are low, spreading and offer flowers in the blue-violet range.  They also enjoy similar conditions: full sun and well drained, lean soil.  By next spring they should spread to soften the edge of my flagstone path.  I sheared off the dried remains of last year’s foliage in late winter and by spring, new growth had camouflaged the withering foliage of spring blooming bulbs like Ipheion and Puschkinia

A better look at Rainbow Skullcap's bi-color flower

The area around Scutellaria alpina ‘Arcobaleno’ or ‘Rainbow’ is chock with seedlings–I am anxious to see how they compare to my original whose bicolor flowers are blue on top and white on the bottom.  Seedlings will range in color from blues to pinks, hence the cultivar name.  With its 10” height and 2’ spread, the new plants should be easy to accommodate in other parts of my garden; according to the plant tag: it’s hardy to zone 4.  I found it, among other fun and unusual plants at Far Reaches Farm, in Port Townsend, WA. “We’re quite fond of the Skullcaps and their kin and feel as though they should be more widely grown,” say Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken, proprietors of Far Reaches Farm, who still offer this plant.

Scutellaria x 'Violet Cloud' in early summer

Scutellaria x ‘Violet Cloud’ is a sterile hybrid with smaller, but deeper purple blooms; a more upright, rounded habit–so far to 12”, but the same early summer bloom period.  It has smoother, greener leaves than the alpine skullcap.  I got this little treasure at Cistus Nursery in the Portland Area when on a plant binge with my friend and plant addict, Kathleen.  The plant tag offers Zone 6 as its hardiness.  Unfortunately, Cistus no longer grows this plant, but I believe the grower Monrovia is offering it, so it should be available at fine, independent nurseries. 

Flush with these two successes, I am on the hunt for more Scutellaria for my garden.  According to The American Horticulture Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, there are more than 300 species.  Oh joy!

Far Reaches Farm–Port Townsend, WA http://www.farreachesfarm.com

Cistus Nursery–Portland, OR  http://www.cistus.com

© Colleen Miko 2010.

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About Colleen Miko

Colleen Miko is a certified professional horticulturist with 20 years experience in landscape design who has designed award winning gardens for the NW Flower & Garden Show as well as HGTV’s “Landscaper’s Challenge”. Colleen is freelance garden writer and speaker.
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2 Responses to Try on these Skullcaps–Plant Fix

  1. We’re lucky to have a couple of species in the county, and they’re great finds in the spring when they bloom. Their diversity really picks up the farther north in California you go, and by the time you get to Washington State I wouldn’t be surprised if you have an amazing selection. ‘Violet Cloud’ looks like a great garden find for you. Definitely a genus deserving of more attention.

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