Sunny blos­soms and bright berries make St. John’s wort shine among other shrubs and peren­ni­als.

Country Gardens - - Contents -

You may be fa­mil­iar with the name, but you’ll likely be sur­prised how many forms Hyper­icum can take. From the rem­edy known as St. John’s wort to the flo­ral ar­rangers’ fa­vorite with bright berries, there’s a Hyper­icum for nearly any gar­den.

Those fa­mil­iar with her­bal med­i­ca­tions will rec­og­nize St. John’s wort (Hyper­icum per­fo­ra­tum) as a rem­edy for de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety. Cen­turies ago, these ail­ments were con­sid­ered the work of de­mons or the Devil, and gar­lands of St. John’s wort were hung over re­li­gious icons dur­ing sum­mer fes­ti­vals to ward off evil. Hence hy­per mean­ing above, and eikona, a picture.

In the land­scape, St. John’s wort has a sim­i­lar ben­e­fi­cial im­pact with its cheery yel­low blos­soms that give way to woody seed cap­sules or bright berries, of­ten used in flo­ral ar­range­ments. The long-bloom­ing, bright yel­low flow­ers range from about ½ inch across (dense hyper­icum) to 2–4 inches in di­am­e­ter (Aaron’s beard, H. ca­lycinum), al­ways cen­tered with a con­spic­u­ous clus­ter of sta­mens. Hap­pily, these shrubs and their berries are deer-re­sis­tant.

St. John’s wort or Hyper­icum species be­long to the fam­ily Hyper­i­caceae (a sub­fam­ily of the Clu­si­aceae), which in­cludes al­most 500 species. They hail from most parts of the world, in­clud­ing moun­tain­ous ar­eas, wood­lands, and scrubby re­gions with poor sandy soil. Some, such as dense hyper­icum

(H. den­si­flo­rum) are na­tive to North Amer­ica. The genus in­cludes shrubby species such as golden St. John’s wort (H. fron­do­sum) and sub­shrubs such as partly woody tut­san (H. an­drosae­mum). Oth­ers are her­ba­ceous peren­ni­als such as com­mon St. John’s wort (H. per­fo­ra­tum), which is con­sid­ered in­va­sive; some trail­ing (H. ceras­toides); or an­nu­als such as bog hyper­icum or tin­ker’s penny (H. ana­gal­loides). Usu­ally bluish-green, the fo­liage may be de­cid­u­ous or ever­green. Some species dis­play good fall color.

St. John’s worts are in­cluded in shrub col­lec­tions for their yel­low flow­ers and long bloom time. One of the showiest is hy­brid ‘Hid­cote’ with clus­ters of fra­grant, yel­low flow­ers from early sum­mer un­til fall. Ir­ish ‘Rowal­lane’ is an­other win­ner with semiev­er­green fo­liage and trios of large, dark golden blooms. Ever­green, with 2-inch-long bluish-green leaves, Kalm St. John’s wort (H. kalmi­anum) is ex­cel­lent for shrub bor­ders, low hedges, or na­tive plant gar­dens. Its clus­ters of gold flow­ers are fol­lowed by at­trac­tive brown oval fruits. The hardier cul­ti­var ‘Ames’ and free-bloom­ing H. x ‘Deppe’ (mar­keted as Sunny Boule­vard) blooms all sum­mer, is more com­pact, and is heat-tol­er­ant. Na­tive, semiev­er­green golden St. John’s wort dis­plays showy flow­ers and fruits. In cold cli­mates, the fo­liage drops in fall. ‘Sun­burst’ is more com­pact with slightly larger blos­soms; ma­ture plants dis­play ex­fo­li­at­ing bark in win­ter. Tut­san is known for its groups of green berries that ripen to red then black. The Hy­pearls and Mystical se­ries have berries in as­sorted col­ors.

In light shade cer­tain St. John’s worts, par­tic­u­larly Aaron’s beard, are ef­fec­tive as ground­cov­ers. Some­what as­sertive, they pro­duce a car­pet of large, sunny yel­low flow­ers from mid­sum­mer to fall. ‘Bri­gadoon’ has bright yel­low leaves. The young fo­liage of Golden Rule is orange, be­com­ing yel­low. Don’t pass up this genus of col­or­ful plants for your gar­den. Per­haps not as well-known as some gen­era, your St. John’s worts likely will be con­ver­sa­tion starters wher­ever you grow them.

Shrubby St. John’s wort (Hyper­icum pro­lifi­cum) Tut­san St. John’s wort (Hyper­icum an­drosae­mum)

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