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On Gardening: To avoid stress designing containers, keep it 'all in the family'

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column that stressed you grow containers in a mono culture style and cluster them together to create a garden look, when designing mixed containers. This week we’ll take it up a notch and say keep it ‘"all in the family." To be taxonomically correct, I should say keep it in the genus, but you will easily see what I mean.

Sometimes this can happen accidentally, like an accidental reunion. Recently, a spot in my garden was one such family reunion. It was with Superbena verbenas and I assure you it was quite unplanned. These verbenas had all come through the winter and gave the appearance of creating a spring bouquet of celebration. While I had not planned this, they reminded me they can certainly offer both ease of growing together and rare beauty.

As I walked my garden, there was Superbena Stormburst, a verbena with light blue (sometimes called silver and white) stripes, clustered tight together with the hot new Superbena Pink Cashmere and a favorite, the gorgeous Superbena Violet Ice. Over the winter they just intermingled as if to tell me this should have been in the original plan. You will never see Superbenas or any other verbena series sold as a mix, but it stands to reason they would do well together.

So, if you fret about choosing partners for lantanas, petunias, impatiens and salvias, just remember an easy solution is to stay in the family. Superbells calibrachoas are one of the most enjoyable to grow in this method. Should they come through the winter like they have done at my house, then you will be in store for a special treat the second season.

The past couple of years, I started off with a plan in mind and that is planting varieties like Superbells Blackcurrant Punch, Grape Punch and Magic Pink Lemonade together in a container with Lemon Coral sedum. Each variety has their quadrant or section in the container and pretty much act behaved. It makes a beautiful recipe.

They have more cold hardiness than many realize and mine have come back, and this is where the real surprise develops. They go over the winter having been cut back in early fall. Through the winter, they may even appear to be asleep, but as warmer days in February arrive, you notice they have all been growing together, intermingling if you will, creating a look reminiscent of an old-fashioned gumball machine or a package of Skittles candy.

You don’t have to do it this way, as Proven Winners has oodles of recipes to create the same wonderful looks. For instance, if you look at Superbells Grape Punch you will see, they have 48 recipes. My favorite is called Summer Punch and features Superbells Grape Punch, Tangerine Punch and Pomegranate Punch for a dazzling color extravaganza. In the recipe they show you how to arrange the plants too.


But now you are also seeing the idea of planting the varieties of the same types of flowers together. Three Superbenas, three Superbells, etc. The intermingling certainly works with Supertunias too. Supertunia Vista Bubblegum may be the caveat as it goes from a peaceful intermingle to a takeover, and we love it.

You can certainly work this easy designer magic however using Supertunia Mini Vista petunias with each other and with regular Supertunias too. Son James, demonstrated this in a window box in Phenix City, Alabama. Kim Mixon, one of our Chattahoochee Valley real estate gurus, loves flowers -- the more the better. Last year her window box showed off the Supertunia, Mini Vistas Sweet Sangria, Yellow and Indigo along with the new Supertunia Hoopla Vivid Orchid and Saffron Finch. Though in a window box the intermingling commenced.

So, as you shop, perhaps you don’t want monoculture or plantings of just one variety and you don’t want the stress of the combining of the species. Keep it in the family and pick out 3 colors of Superbena verbenas, Superbells calibrachoas or Supertunia petunias. Its easy and you’ll love it!


(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

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