Longleaf Speedwell


"The lightning that preceded it
Struck no one but myself
But I would not exchange the Bolt
For the rest of Life."

-Emily Dickinson

Eveline Adoring lots of sunlight but doing pretty decent in bright shade too, & not minding crowded conditions in a mixed boarder, Veronica x 'Eveline' is a speedwell with quite a tall purple-violet spike, slender & delicate in appearance, but tough as they come.

Its exact parentage was not recorded by the breeder, but it seems to be V. longifolia pollinated by V. spicata subsp incana.

A great border flower for the perennial garden, or for the cut flowers garden, or for container gardening, it perennializes reliably, slowly clumping to a foot width or wider, two feet tall for blossoms, under ten inches for the dense attractive shiny bluish green foliage which turns purple in autumn.

It can bloom as early as May but June is more likely. The long slender tapering spikes are at first endearingly bowed into the form of a shephard's staff or old man's cane. As they mature, they become upright spikes of purple, with dark pink calyx.

Deadheading spent flowers induces rebloom, so that it's in flower the entirety of summer & into the start of autumn. It's a first-rate butterfly attracter, & looks amazing whether a single clump or in grouping.

EvelineIt takes a medium amount of moisture in humusy soil, & is not drought tolerant. It does tolerate poor soil if it must, & is very disease resistant. The clump is easily divided every third year.

An odd folk belief that speedwell attracted lightning kept Europeans from using it for indoor bouquets. This may have arisen from beliefs in sympathetic magic & the sense that speedwell flowers were like bolts of lightning, or flames of fire. So among the old folknames for speedwell we find Strike Fires

It was also believed that if Veronica were brought into the house, the mother in the family would die within the year, hence the folk-names Farewells or Mammy Dies. At the same time speedwell was highly regarded as a medicinal astringent, & was known as Paul's Betnony, after the seventh century Roman surgeon Paulus Oegineta.

The name Veronica is very ancient & means "I Bring Thee Victory," & alludes to the warlike Athena Nike. The name entered Christian mythology as a woman who assisted Jesus on his way to Cavalry. She wiped sweat from his face, & her scarf became imprinted with the visage of Christ.

This image was for a few centuries said to be the only likeness of Jesus from his lifetime, & developed an elaborate mythology of its own. At one point in history, a painting alleging to be Veronica's portrait of Jesus was used as a Roman standard by the Christianized army. And the long spikes of Veronica flowers were similarly compared to military standards. (A much fuller account of Veronica's legend is given on the 'Royal Candles' Speedwell page.)

A pun arose for the plant's name that it was a contraction of unica (singular) & medicina because Veronica as a medicinal plant was the "one true medicine" just as Jesus was the one true god. Quite a transmutation for a name initially associated with a War Goddess, & popularly taken (in the Latin form Berenice) by Ptolomaic queens who were indeed warlike.


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