The Victorian Verbena hybrida had been obtained by crossing the V. melindres, V. Tweediana, V. incisa and well various other species of South African origin. During to its varied origins, the Victorian garden verbena produced flowers of every colour save yellow, although the range was chiefly in the red-purple hues. The parent species had only been in England since c. 1836, so the flower was still something of a novelty by the late Victorian age.
The British isles had a native species, the V. officinalis, but this had fallen into great disfavour as a garden flower, mainly, Hibberd suggests, because of a ‘plague’ that invariably struck the plant. Hibberd also theorised that this plague was caused by over cultivation by market gardeners rather than any inherent fault of the plant.
The verbena required a rich loamy and somewhat moist soil, and ‘a free and pure air’ (thus, not the smoggy, polluted air of the British cities). The roots must never be allowed to dry out, and the plant needed to be overwintered in a cool, airy glasshouse with only enough heat to keep out the frost.
New plants could be propagated from cuttings taken from the tender-growing tops in the month of May. If carefully managed, these cutting grew on strongly, and could often be planted out from the end of May.
The verbena was also well suited to frame growing.
Information and image taken from F. Edward Hulme and Shirley Hibberd, Familiar Garden Flowers (Cassell, Peter, Galpin and Co.: London: c. 1890), 5 vols.