What is it?
Hypericum androsaemum ?Aubrey?s purple?, St. John?s Wort
Why grow it?
St. John?s wort is famous as a herb for depression. But this plant will become famous for the really striking foliage. In midsummer it has yellow star-shaped flowers which pop when they are backed up by the reddish purple foliage. The dark berries that follow are just as handsome. It makes a strong mounded shrubby form and grows to 90 cm high. This makes it a good anchor plant in any border. It will spread by self-sown seedlings. There is another burgundy form: H. a. ?Albury purple? which is also a good one to look for.
How and when?
Plant it in either sun or part shade (though the more intense the shade, the fewer flowers to expect) in rich loamy soil. Though it will grow in just about any soil and can withstand some drought, it must be watered well in the first few weeks after planting. It needs to be mulched for the winter and may suffer from dieback in harsh winters even in Z6. Cut it back in spring and watch out for rust. Cut off anything that look bad and it will probably recover quite nicely.
Where can I get it?
It should be widely available in good garden centres across the country.
Originally published: 2001. Globe and Mail.