Kiss me quick...
Or the story of red valerian
Jupiter’s beard, Fox’s brush and Kiss me quick are just some of the common names of a plant that is ubiquitous in our garden and in the chalky downland area in which I live.
Red valerian, or Spanish valerian are other names for Centranthus ruber, a different plant to the valerian used by herbalists in sleep remedies which is Valeriana officinalis.
Although our garden is full of the stuff, both the pink variety and the white Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’, I have never knowingly planted any, as it is a vigorous self-seeder. It has even wormed its way into tiny crevices in our brick and flint wall. A perennial cottage garden plant, it loves stony places in full sun.
It is very much a coastal plant - we are just a few miles inland from the English Channel, which likes sunny, dry chalky spots (someone has to). Some might go as far to call it a weed, but I think it can be great foliage to go with other plants. I have the white variety growing next to a deep crimson ‘Tess of the d’Urbevilles’ rose, forming a stunning lacy backdrop. But once it goes over, or gets unwieldy, I have no qualms about cutting it right back, or pulling it out in great handfuls, safe in the knowledge that before too long it will be sprouting up again.
As a wildflower, it happily covers whole banks as long as it gets plenty of sunshine. With its clouds of small, bushy pink and white flowers and its vigorous foliage, this plant is the definition of low maintenance, but then again if you have the right conditions, it’s probably growing in your garden already.