Ask Ella: Speedwells, For A Sprig of Unexpected Texture
Ask Ella is a recurring Garden Collage feature where we ask our in-house florist, Ella Stavonsky, about the history of, origin, and maintenance that goes into some of the most intriguing flowers on the market today. This column is dedicated exclusively to common and rare varieties of flowers you’re likely to find at your local market. This week, we spotlight speedwells– a tall, slender plant that comes in several rich hues.
Speedwells originated in Turkey and are often planted in flower-rich lawns to create a wild countryside effect. Speedwells, a member of the Veronica genus, are edible and were traditionally used as medicine to treat respiratory illnesses. Speedwells are often known simply as “veronica,” named for the person who was said to have wiped the sweat from Jesus’s brow. According to legend, the markings on the cloth resembled the shape of the flowers. In Ireland, sprigs of speedwell were often pinned to clothes to prevent accidents.
Speedwells are a straightforward plant to care for– the only essential step to prolonging their life is to keep the stems clean. Pinch two fingers around the stem (as shown below) and swiftly slide them down the stem to quickly remove all of the leaves. (Removing the leaves helps keep the flowers stay alive longer, as water is not being diverted away.) With the leaves removed, veronica will last about a week. To revive drooping blooms, place the stems in very hot water (unlike hyacinths, the tops do not need to be covered); recut the stems every second day.
Though some consider speedwell a weed, we love tucking them into arrangements of all sizes and conceptions. They add a spindly height, a sprig of unexpected texture, and there’s a wildness to their form that gives bouquets a spontaneous dimension. Ella likes to incorporate rich purple-blue speedwells into monochrome bouquets, particularly ones that utilize different hues of lavender or burgundy.