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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

We moved into a house with a lovely azalea that didn’t bloom. We thought it might have been over-pruned. Last fall we did not prune it and now it still hasn’t bloomed. I was hoping to transplant it this year, but it looks rather sickly. Shall we prune it again and give it another year? Can I still transplant it?

I have lost four 12-15 foot tall white pine trees over the last year. All had the same symptoms, browning needles at the bottom that continued up to the top. Can you tell me what pest is killing the white pines? I am also losing an Austrian pine now. It is experiencing the same symptoms.

We all seem to plant the basic herbs like basil, rosemary and parsley. What suggestions can you offer for more exotic herbs that I could add to my garden to spice things up both for cooking and adding interest/beauty to my landscape?

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