H. Perennial & Old Fashioned Garden Plants & Flowers by John Wood
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Lithospermum Prostratum - Hardy Perennial
Author: John Wood
Lithospermum Prostratum Described.
Lithospermum Prostratum - Prostrate Gromwell; Nat. Ord. Boraginaceæ.
Sometimes called the Gentian L., from its bright blue gentian-like flowers. By many this species is considered synonymous with L. fruticosum. They are, however, very dissimilar. Our subject is an evergreen and stunted trailer; L. fruticosum is a deciduous trailer and very vigorous; both, however, are perfectly hardy. The most striking characteristics of the Prostrate Gromwell are its fine dark blue flowers and procumbent habit. It is a native of France, and only within the last sixty years has it been introduced into this country. Its habit is most distinct as compared with the various long-stemmed species. It much resembles the well-known Veronica prostrata in its general appearance.
Its flowers are sparingly produced from the axils of the leaves, but, being large compared with the size of the foliage, they are very effective when they first open. The dark but bright blue corolla is tinged with red, but later on the colour becomes an unmixed blue, and the blooms increase in size until more than ½in. across. The complexion of the foliage is very dark (holly green), the leaves are about 1in. long, and are narrow and stalkless; they have much substance and are rather hard. The whole plant is thickly coated with hairs—a common feature of this order; but in this species the hairs are remarkably stiff, those of the edges of the leaves being almost thorny.
The form of growth assumed by this plant eminently fits it for rockwork. It should be so planted that its densely-branched stems can fall over the face of a light-coloured stone; in this respect it forms a good companion to the dwarf phloxes, but it is otherwise a superior rock plant, being more characteristic and prolonged in its flowering. It should be allowed to grow to a large size, which will require several years, or the object may be sooner gained by planting half-a-dozen specimens in a group; this should be done when the plants are young, as it is very impatient of being disturbed when once established. It would make a capital edging plant for small shrubs, to come next the grass, backed by a row of Erica carnea, which is also dwarf, a continued bloomer and contemporaneous. Its propagation can only be readily effected in this climate by cuttings, as it does not ripen seed well; it cannot be divided, because generally the little shrub has a short bole, therefore, cuttings must be struck from the previous year's growth; they should be dibbled into fine sand and peat, kept shaded and cool for several weeks; they root quicker during the warm season, when they are also less liable to be over-watered, which is a very common cause of failure in striking cuttings; they should be well rooted before the winter sets in.
Flowering period, May to July.
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