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Plant for worry-free summer vacations
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The contagious excitement of spring planting is everywhere. In addition, families are starting to plan long, relaxing vacations away from home, and this is when the nasty dilemma rears its ugly head. What do you plant when you are planning to be away a lot during the summer?
My standard answer is to plant New Gold lantana, Purple Heart and a rock. That's right -- a rock. This unique combination of three will allow you to go to the Caribbean, spend extra time honing your golfing skills and still have a bed that looks great.
New Gold lantana was our first Mississippi Medallion winner back in 1996. Since then, other states have given it their award, too. New Gold lantana never stops blooming, and it is drought tolerant. In other words, you can leave home without fear.
Not only are the flowers bright, bold and beautiful, but they also attract butterflies. The complementary color for the New Gold is a purple violet. The perfect plant to grow as a companion (and one that is tough as nails) is Purple Heart.
This wonderful, succulent vining plant, also known as setcreasea, is grown for its striking foliage. It is literally one of those plants you can drive your car on and it will somehow survive.
Purple Heart prefers a well-drained, organic-rich beds but is touted as the plant that will grow just about any place where it doesn't get wet feet. In fact, root rot is its No. 1 enemy, but this only occurs in soggy soils.
Lastly, what could be more drought tolerant, heat and humidity tough, than a rock? They even can withstand hailstorms. The rock will serve as the perfect accent in the middle of a bed of very vigorous racehorse-like plants such as the New Gold lantana and Purple Heart.
The rock also will be the perfect gathering spot for butterflies to bask in the warm sun as they prepare to give flight for a day of feasting on the nearby nectar. One other thing should be said about the rock. Next fall when you want to plant mums, pansies or violas, guess what will still be looking awesome -- the rock.
If you haven't shopped for rocks lately, you will be amazed at the huge selection available. By all means if you are taking this advice seriously, get a rock large enough to do the job. Otherwise, it may end up covered by the New Gold.
There is another plant that for sure fits this landscape situation and looks nice with both of the above plants and that is the New Wonder scaevola. This blue fan flower was a 1997 Mississippi Medallion winner and was selected by Texas, Georgia and Louisiana, too. It does need water in a container, but it is indeed one of the toughest once in a bed.
It can tolerate street-side plantings by the mailbox and bloom all summer and yet perform its magic in a dappled light bed with impatiens and caladiums.
So if your gardening time seems a little short this summer and if you want a bed that is beautiful and tough as nails, which is sure to free up your time for other things, then plant New Gold lantana, Purple Heart and a rock.