Best of the bunch
VERBASCUM: These cottage garden favourites add a valuable element of height to planting schemes, their impressive flower spikes reaching up to 1.5m (5ft).
All are either biennial or shortlived perennials, flowering in the first or second summer after sowing. They then die, although they self-seed readily. You can buy them in a range of colours and it’s well worth checking out your seed catalogues if you want some new varieties. They thrive in sun in well-drained, drought-tolerant soils low in nutrients, so don’t need much looking after. Some may not survive over the winter, but the more reliable varieties include V. chaixii ‘Gainsborough’, which produces pale primrose-yellow flowers and ‘Cotswold Queen’, which has striking yellow flowers and terracotta eye.