This sweet, velvety plant has stumped me the last four years. I introduced Stachys byzantina into my perennial border four years ago after I received several free divisions from a friend. Since I had a large quantity and loved it's beautiful coarse texture it became the main structural plant in this part of my garden.
As time progressed I added additional lamb's ears purchased from different sources...to continue the strong pattern that I began. My plant naivety assumed that a lamb's ear was a lamb's ear. Two years ago I began to notice there were differences. Some of my lamb's ears kept shooting up flowers in summer alongside narrower upright leaves (image on the right), while others had larger leaves that formed clumps with no flowers (left image).
At first I thought the difference was caused by more shade at one end of my border. That was dispelled last year when our neighbor cut down his towering maple that cast that shade. It really became apparent when we moved some of the flowering ones near the nonflowering ones. When they popped up this spring the difference was shocking. Jeez, I had two different cultivars.
One was doing exactly what I had envisioned (clumping with no flowers), while I was constantly hacking away at the other trying to make it do something for which it was not intended. I think the clumping form is the cultivar, Helen Von Stein. I'm not sure about the other one just yet...maybe just the pure form of lamb's ears? Hopefully some of you might know.
Yesterday, I finally took out the flowering one. Not because I didn't like it, but because it wasn't fulfilling the design role that I had intended (a low, repeating clumping form). In this instance, the Stachys byzantina 'Helen Von Stein' filled that role perfectly. The next step, dividing the Helen Von Stein to fill in the empty gaps....and the experiment continues. Maybe someday I'll have that perennial border finished.
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