Lamb's Ears is the perfect
example of plant over planter (and we mean the person doing the
planting not a cute little pot). So widely grown and cultivated
that it seems to be a native of almost everywhere. Actually, it
is native to Northern Turkey, the Southern Caucasus Mountain region and Southern Iran where it grows on rocky hills and scrub areas. In
other words, it is a weed. Which is exactly the quality it makes
apparent in a rationally planned garden. Like many weeds we adopt,
it does its own thing. This makes it important to use it the
right way in your garden and not try to make it something it
isn't. For instance, it isn't the border plant to end all border
plants. The potted plants are so cute and they look so nice when
you line the driveway with them, but this is a mistake. Why?
Because they aren't going to stay there. Now don't get me wrong,
I don't mean they are going to sneak off in the middle of the
night or anything as clandestine as that. What they do is grow
outward from the center and leave a nice bare spot in the middle.
This usually starts happening after they finish blooming.
While Lamb's Ears can take partial shade, they
can't take excess water, which makes them a poor choice for planting near a
So what are they good for? Pure
pleasure. Let them be free and they will spread their seeds and
grace the garden with their downy softness and tall graceful
purple flower heads. Here a Lamb's Ear and there a Lamb's ear,
almost everywhere there will be a Lamb's ear, and you will be
glad you let them have their way.
Oh, and some of you may wonder
why an Herb Company grows Lamb's Ears. While there are a few
folkloric references to herbal uses for Lamb's Ears, like to
staunch wounds (thus the old name woundwort) and as a washcloth,
it has a home here because of its association with the medicinal
herb Betony. Both are in the genus Stachys and we tend to collect
as many members of any herbal genus as possible. We don't always like all the
different species, but Lamb's Ears found a permanent, yet variable,
spot in our gardens.
Just a note about other varieties
of Lamb's Ears that do not bloom; they are slow. We did trial these years
ago in the hope that they would be a better border plant or perennial addition
to the garden. But, we weren't too impressed. Our original clumps are still in the garden. Over 8 or
so years they have gone from 6 inch mounds to eighteen inch
mounds; a little too tame for us.