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Verbenas steal the show in Mississippi gardens
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
If the varieties Aztec, Babylon and Tukana don't ring a bell with you, they should. These are among the best new verbenas that will be in the market this spring. If you look around now, you will see verbenas stealing the show in many flowerbeds.
Thanks to new introductions of the past few years, we no longer think of verbenas as being a powdery mildew and insect infested flower. These news verbenas have performed admirably in the trials at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs and other sites, too. In the face of the horrid summer last year, these troopers kept blooming and caught everyone's eye at the Fall Flower and Garden Fest last October.
The Aztec series is being introduced by Ball FloraPlant, a vegetative division of Ball Seed. The Aztecs may be noted for having the most blazing red of perennial-type verbenas. The purple is deep, dark and saturated in color. Other colors are deep lavender improved, plum and rose pink improved. These trailing, spreading verbenas will work in the landscape and containers.
Proven Winners in Bonsall, Calif., is bringing the Babylon series to the consumer, although S&G Novartis developed it. The Babylons offer the best mildew resistance and an incredible number of flowers. The color that seems to always invoke an exclamation is the neon rose, whose name does a good job of describing its color. The other colors in the Babylon series are light blue, lilac, pink, white and silver.
Strangely enough, the Tukana Series is also being marketed by Proven Winners and was developed by S&G Novartis. The Tukana series offers larger flowers and plants. This series has a denim blue, a rare salmon color and a hot red called Tukana scarlet. Though all of these performed well in trials, don't forget about the 1999 Mississippi Medallion winner, Biloxi Blue, that is still a superior choice.
Proper soil preparation and site selection is essential in your verbena success. Add 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. While doing this, spread two pounds per 100 square feet of a slow release fertilizer like a 12-6-6, 8-8-8 or something fairly similar.
Provide full sunlight, water and you are well on your way to enjoying one of the prettiest groups of flowers available. But there is one more important aspect to happiness with verbenas. These are vigorous plants that spread exceptionally well. They bloom for weeks and weeks, and then get a little tired. Although they'll still have a few blossoms, they'll look a little weak.
This is the time to cut them back and side-dress with a little fertilizer. The verbenas will send out new runners and give more blooms. You may need to do this twice in a long growing season, but that is how you have verbena blooms in spring, summer and fall. Leaving those long stems will promote problems and make them look unsightly.
You will find that like their cousin the lantana, the perennial verbenas will be feasted on regularly by swallowtail, monarch and fritillary butterflies. Combine them with plants like salvia, melampodium, buddleia and lantanas.