Thursday, March 10, 2016

Plant Portrait – Wall Germander

Teucrium chamaedrys has been described as a garden workhorse. It certainly not demanding and very reliable. It is a low shrub rather than a perennial. Traditionally grown as a medicinal herb, nowadays it is valued both for its flowers and its evergreen foliage.

Teucrium chamaedrys “Summer Sunshine”




Attractive to butterflies but deer resistant, it is supposed to prefer alkaline but will grow in acidic soil. It can grow in poor soil, provided it is well-drained.  It prefers full sun. Even if it is originally from the Mediterranean, it is hardy to zone 5 to 9.

The soil here is alkaline, but our oldest plant only gets at most four hours of sunshine (although it gets it mid-day, when the sun is at its strongest). As you can see, it grows at the base of a stone wall. Actually the roots were spread on the limestone and the wall built on top of the germander roots. This gives you an idea of how tough the plant is. It has been happy with this regimen for many years.
The germander is the "clump" to the right of the bench




Germander is said to bloom in summer or fall. In fact, the plant mentioned above which grows in part shade blooms only in late September, while the cultivar “Summer Sunshine”, which is grown in full sun, blooms for us in June. "Summer Sunshine" is a Canadian selection discovered as a sport of the plain green species form, by Jack Broxholme of Burlington, Ontario around 1999. 




The older plant, grown from seed, seems to be sturdier. I trim off most of the foliage just after the snow had melted. It survives the winter quite well, but it comes through a bit bedraggled (crushed by the weight of the snow).

A good pruning encourages new growth. This severe pruning I give it in spring might explain why it blooms late. By the time it is covered with flowers in later September, it is about two feet wide and a foot and a half tall. The name germander is considered to be a corruption of Chamaedrys. Chamaedrys means "ground oak", which refers to the shape of the leaf.




“Summer Sunshine”, not being as vigorous, only gets a light pruning. The fact that the foliage is yellow might interfere with photosynthesis which would explain why it is not as vigorous.

Ours grows close to a patch of Cerastium tomentosum. I let the thuggish Snow-in-Summer partially invade the germander in the spring as they look quite good growing together.  Yellow early in the year, the foliage slowly turns darker and is green by the time the plant flowers in summer.


Teucrium chamaedrys “Summer Sunshine”

We also have a native germander – Teucrium Canadense. An attractive, but weedy, plant which selfseeds in a shady corner. It is rather nice and can survive in a lot of shade but each spring I try to remove most of it as it is too invasive to be welcome. Contrarily to Teucrium chamaedry, this germander is happy in the only area of the garden that has acidic soil.

American Germander
Teucrium Canadense



17 comments:

  1. The plant seems to like you Alain. It is rather miffy for me.
    I am a great fan of gravel mulches

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    1. It would seem most of them prefer alkaline soil.

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  2. The colour of the flowers against the yellow leaves is really attractive.

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    1. Fortunately it is still pretty yellow by the time Summer Sunshine blooms. The foliage gets greener and greener over the summer.

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  3. A good plant to have, if it likes your soil. The flowers contrast nicely with it's foliage and make a very pleasing picture.

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    1. It is also nice that one blooms in summer and the other in autumn.

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  4. That native Teucrim is very attractive. I don't think I could grow it though, as the soil here is very alkaline. The exotic species might work for me, though.

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    1. You are not missing much. That native Teucrium is attractive but it self seeds a lot. Fortunately it does not survive in sunny alkaline spots which is most of the garden here.

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  5. I've seen this plant but have never grown it since our soil is acidic. I agree that it's really pretty growing with the Snow in Summer. :o)

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    1. The contrast is very nice. On the whole snow in summer is a nice plant. It does spread but is easy to control.

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  6. Always interesting to read about a plant I am not familiar with. I think I will have to look for it this spring.

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    1. The cultivar "Summer Sunshine" is more striking than the species. But I think the latter is more adaptable (can survive in more shady spots).

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  7. Hello Alain, I can't remember if I've seen something like this before. It's so small and diminutive, it can be easily overlooked. Our soil is heavy, water retentive and acidic so it probably won't be very happy in our garden.

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    1. It probably would not like your soil. The cultivar I show is rather small but the species grow about 2 feet by 2 feet.

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  8. Don't know much about these plants Alain, other than than there is quite a bit of variation between species. They seem to prefer sunny more alkaline conditions which pretty much rules them out for me but they obviously thrive with you.

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    1. Your right. Beside, the one that likes acidic soil and more shade (T. canadense) I would not recommend.

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  9. Alain, Teucrium chamaedrys is new to me, I love it!

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