By Freda Cameron
Most perennial gardeners are familiar with the fuzzy-leaved lambs ear stachys. I have quite a few 'Helene von Stein' in my garden and I do love the color and softness of this perennial. However, there's a smooth-leaved stachys densiflora 'Hummelo' that brightens up a garden with emerald green foliage. This perennial is evergreen in my zone 7 garden. Hummelo is also suitable for gardens in zones 4-8. Hummelo needs a bit more water than the fuzzy stachys, but is still quite drought tolerant.
Hummelo works well as an edging plant with compact, mounding foliage that stays very neat from spring through fall. In winter, it's less lush, but still very neat and tidy. I started with five pots of Hummelo to use as a foliage plant, but have been pleased with the spikes of blooms. I planted these in 2007 and had little bloom the first year. This year, the blooms were more plentiful. I believe that it's time to divide my stachys since they were already quite large. I have not tried direct sowing these from seed in the fall. One source for Hummelo is Bluestone Perennials.
Of course, to be in my outer gardens, stachys densiflora 'Hummelo' is deer resistant.