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The Best Plant You’ve Never Heard Of


Ask many skilled gardeners to name their favorite plant, and what do they reply? “The one that’s in bloom right now.”

Not what the interviewer wanted to hear, probably, but true nonetheless.

That comment came to mind this morning as I was rummaging about in my garden, pulling out the inch-long blades of crabgrass that are starting to raise their annoying heads. And the plant that caught my attention and filled me with admiration? Mazus reptans, a quarter-inch high ground cover that’s one of the plants in the Steppables line. It makes a solid mat of little green leaves, blooms with tiny purple-blue flowers that suggest miniature orchids, and it looks really great next to a cluster of lime green lemon thyme at the front of my border. It would grow nicely between stepping stones as well.

Photo courtesy of Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden

I bought my plant at Anton’s Greenhouse in Evanston last year and was impressed with how it took off after it went in the ground. Not invasive but sturdy growth. It overwintered just fine and now it’s in its second season. The Missouri Botanic Garden, which reports no serious insect or disease problems, says it can grow 2 inches high, but I have yet to see that.

This is a terrific little plant and well worth seeking out. Looking for something new to grow? This is it.

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questions

I have a nicely sheltered, rounded 7-foot tall Japanese red maple on the southeast corner of my backyard. Half of the tree has lost its leaves, the formerly red bark is turning gray, and a good-sized square of bark has been stripped off on the side that faces the yard. I sprayed the exposed bark with black pruning spray to close any entry for insects. I have not cut off any of the branches.

Does the winter have any effect on the tree? Should I look for some insect infestation? What should I do now?

What plants do you predict will be best sellers this year? Why?

After my father’s tomatoes ripen on the vine, he finds when he cuts into them that there is a hard white core that extends through the fruit.

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