Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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Hats Off to 'Hummelo'

Hummelo betony
Stachys monieri 'Hummelo'

Mention the word “stachys” and many people think of Lamb’s Ears with its soft, fuzzy silver leaves and odd-looking flowers.

For me, though, the word brings to mind not Stachys byzantina, the botanic name of Lamb's Ears, but one of its green-leafed cousins, Stachys monieri ‘Hummelo.’

This plant, common name betony, is one of the longest-blooming perennials in my garden. It's right up there with the Blue Star False Aster (Kalimeris incisa‘Blue Star’) and the Rozanne geranium.

Hummelo anchors my garden in the summer months, with groupings of three, five and even seven. This is definitely one plant where more is better. Thankfully that isn't hard as you can easily divide it.

The foliage of Hummelo betony
The foliage of Stachys m. 'Hummelo'
I love Hummelo's vibrant rosy-purple spikes that bloom from mid-June until sometime in August. Even when it’s not in bloom, the scalloped leaves with their crinkly texture provide a lot of interest.

That's one reason I have it along the sidewalk to my front door, where the leaves can be appreciated close up.

Hummelo thrives in my clay soil, whether full sun or light shade, and gets about 1 ½ to 2 feet tall, with a similar spread. It has never been bothered by deer or rabbits.

The plant also goes well with several others in my garden, including ornamental grasses, cone flowers (Echinacea), day lilies (Hemerocallis), bee balm (Monarda) and Walker's Low cat mint Nepeta x faassenii 'Walker's Low').

As with Kalimeris, I discovered this plant while doing a class report on Piet Oudolf, the Dutch “New Wave” designer who worked on the Lurie Garden in Chicago, the Gardens of Remembrance in New York City's Battery and numerous other public gardens.

He introduced the plant, which is named for the town where he lives in the Netherlands. I've always figured that any plant named after a hometown or spouse has to be good so I did more research.

I found that Hummelo had a good track record, topping the list of 22 Stachys varieties evaluated by the Chicago Botanic Garden from 1998 through 2004.

Richard Hawke, the CBG’s Plant Evaluation Manager, cited Hummelo for its “consistently heavy flower production, healthy foliage and a uniform habit” in his report. The plant also is reliably hardy in the Chicago area, being listed as Zone 4 to 8. That sealed the deal and Hummelo has been in my garden ever since.

I admit I'm intrigued by another recent introduction, Stachys officinalis ‘Pink Cotton Candy,’ which was found by the CBG as a seedling during the evaluation mentioned above. Its blooms are similar to those of Hummelo but in a much softer pink.

For now, though, I'm sticking with Hummelo. It's a true workhorse and a very pretty one at that.

By Karen Geisler

Hummelo betony has a compact growth habit.
Stachys m. 'Hummelo' has a nice compact habit


  1. I really like how it is used at the Lurie Garden - they have a ton of them there.

    1. I'll have to return to the Lurie Garden as they were just starting to bud out when I was there last. More is definitely better with this plant.

  2. Thanks for helping me identify this plant that I have but lost the tag. Now I know why it moves all over the garden. Mine is interesting because it is now blooming half purple and half pink.

    1. Half pink and half purple? I know there's a rosea or pink version, but haven't seen a combo before. Interesting....

  3. I have three big clumps of Hummelo that I love. They're a tough, beautiful plant. Even the leaves are cool. :o)

  4. Karen, I had never heard of this species before, but it looks wonderful. I've tagged your post for future reference; surely I can find a place to add this to my garden! -Jean

    1. I first learned about this type of stachys when looking for plants that would survive under black walnut trees. Couldn't find the plant at that point, but kept my eye out for it. I'm glad I did.