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A Plant for Neatniks


You know who you are. You’re the gardeners who keep your lawn perfectly edged and weed-free, the ones who maintain an exquisitely proportioned space between plants. You’re the opposite of folks like me whose plants are forever rubbing shoulders with their neighbors and muttering under their breath about garden bullies.

“Overplanted” is the word some might use to describe my garden, especially now that the Joe-Pye weed, ironweed, cannas and ‘Indigo Spires’ salvia are sky high while the heavily laden and thus-far green tomatoes are listing like the leaning tower of Pisa.

Try as I might, I just can’t achieve a super tidy garden.

Well, maybe I could, if I only grew more pentas.

Whenever I’ve grown pentas (Pentas lanceolata), I’ve marveled at how it invariably forms a perfect mound of foliage and just keeps blooming all summer long with no need for deadheading or the slightest bit of maintenance.

This year I have Starcluster™ Lavender Pentas, a plant from Syngenta Flowers that looks more pink than lavender. Pentas comes in white, red and shades of pink as well. It’s native from eastern Africa to Yemen. Its other name is Egyptian star flower since each individual floret in the plants flower cluster is a little 5-pointed star, but when you go shopping the name you’ll see on the label is pentas.

Starcluster™ Lavender Pentas

Photo courtesy of Syngenta Flowers

There are other plants for neatniks. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and all its cousins come to mind (not the ground cover sedums; you want the mid-sized mounding ones). New Guinea and SunPatiens are good too (and here let us pause to shed a tear for the common impatiens that have been perishing right and left because of a deadly virus). Certainly you can shape a boxwood, yew or barberry into a tidy sculptural form, but that requires at least a modicum of work. With the pentas, sedums and the virus-resistant impatiens, you have no work. What could be better than that?

SunPatiens

Photo courtesy of Park Seed

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

Photo courtesy of Walter’s Garden

You can shape a barberry or yew or boxwood.

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questions

Will a trumpet vine growing on a tree harm it?

I have a dampish area with poor grass and moss that I would like to change to ground cover, but if I have only one plant, won’t it be boring? Can I get rid of the grass in winter or early spring?

I would like to start seeds under lights. When is the best time to start flower seeds? The seed packet always says to sow a number of weeks before the last frost. When is the last frost?

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