All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A by Pernell Gerver

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"These Are a Few of My Favorite Plants"

In my 30-plus years of gardening I've grown many, many different plants in my gardens and many of them have become my favorites over the years. When I talk about plants at my Gardening Workshops, the word "favorite" usually comes up at least once or twice. With so many favorite plants, it's hard to narrow it down to just a few, but here are some of my all-time, favorite plants. Click on a plant name to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Christmas rose is a favorite of mine because of its early bloom period. It's the first perennial to bloom in the garden. In bloom as early as Christmas when there is little snow cover, it bears clusters of two-inch-wide, white flowers. In bloom reliably by Valentine's Day in my garden, the flowers bloom right through frozen ground. Its palmate foliage is evergreen and forms a handsome clump a foot high and a couple of feet wide. It thrives in part shade to shade.

Lenten rose, a relative of Christmas rose, is also another favorite plant. It bears large, three-inch-wide, bell-shaped flowers in shades of pink to deep-rosy-red to purple. Many have streaked or spotted flower petals. It blooms in late winter and early spring and the flowers remain attractive for up to four months.

For summer bloom in the shade garden, my favorite perennial is Ligularia 'The Rocket.' Ligularia is a perennial for the darkest corner of the garden. This photo is of it in the darkest, shadiest part of my garden! Its heart-shaped foliage is deeply cut along the edges and forms a two-foot-tall mound. Five-foot-tall spikes of yellow flowers held on deep-purple stems rise through the foliage and bloom in midsummer. It's an amazing plant that grows where other plants won't.


Climbing miniature rose 'Jeanne Lajoie'My favorite rose is the climbing mini rose 'Jeanne Lajoie.' Miniature roses are hardier than hybrid tea roses because they are growing on their own roots. They don't have a bud union which is the most vulnerable part of a rose bush. 'Jeanne Lajoie' is the best climbing mini rose there is. Large clusters of clear pink, miniature blooms cover the rambling stems nearly all season, from early summer to fall. The flowers are very double with high pointed buds. It's a vigorous, well-branched mini rose that grows to 12 feet tall or more. It's great on a tall arbor or trellis. In my garden I have one planted on each side of an arbor and they meet at the top.

Purple beautyberryThere are many shrubs that I like, but if I had to pick one as my favorite it would have to be purple beautyberry. It bears small lilac flowers in summer that become clusters of small, shiny violet berries arranged in clusters up and down each stem in early autumn. The berries look like gems. The berries remain attractive on the shrub well into winter. It has attractive reddish-pink fall foliage. Whenever anyone seees this plant in my garden they always admire the bright-purple, gem-like berries and ask me "What is that plant?" Purple beautyberry grows to four feet high and its branches arch gracefully out and down from the center.

I grow lots and lots of different bulbs in my gardens, but there are two that I consider my favorites. They're fall-blooming bulbs called colchicum. They're rather rare and lesser known, but they definitely deserve a spot in any garden. The variety 'Lilac Wonder' bears huge lilac-pink, crocus-shaped flowers that burst out of the ground with no warning in autumn. Foliage appears in spring, then dies back. A mature bulb can produce 20 or more flowers. 'Waterlily' bears striking, bright lilac-pink double flowers that look just like a waterlily bloom. They also appear in autumn without foliage. The leaves grow in spring, then die back. A very choice and hard to find cultivar.


Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

 "Stopping the Spread of INSV to Other Plants"

Q. A timely question/answer article last week on your Web site!! Could you please go further on how to prevent INSV from spreading further in my own garden? Once I get rid of the plants, what can I use in the rest of the garden? Would the virus affect the natural mountain laurels that are behind the impatiens in addition to the other evergreens? You said the virus is in the seed. I planted my impatiens as a continuous border in the back, the only break was a narrow stone path. The impatiens on the right side of the path seem to be fine, but on the left side they had the problem. I thought it was an overwatering problem by the sprinkler system. Thanks.

A. No, it's not a problem with your sprinkler system. This virus called impatiens necrotic spot virus, or INSV for short, came in on the impatiens plants you bought. When you bought the plants more than likely they showed no symptoms of the virus. It's not until much later on do you start to see the symptoms of this awful disease.

As with human viruses, there is no cure for plant viruses like INSV. As I mentioned in last week's column, it is a serious problem facing the plant industry. Some of the very largest commercial growers in the country are doing what's called "virus indexing" to help clean up their stock plants that are used for starting cuttings of new plants. That helps stop the spread of the virus somewhat throughout the plant industry but more of that needs to be done. I'm aware of one large national commercial grower that has a virus indexing program for their New Guinea impatiens, an important flower crop financially, but I'm not aware of any work being done to regular old impatiens. I hope someone is or will be working on it.

Since there is no cure for INSV, the only thing you can do is to try to stop the spread of this virus to other plants in your garden. Pull up and discard all of the sick impatiens plants and any other plants affected by INSV.

Once in your garden, INSV is spread from infected plants to healthy plants by thrip, a tiny, nearly-invisible insect. Along with removing and discarding all infected plants you should also treat your other plants for thrip to stop the spread of the virus to other plants in your garden. I use Neem Oil to control thrips. Made from the seeds of the Neem tree that grows in India, this amazing all-natural spray is an insecticide, fungicide, and miticide all in one. It can be used on all plants including roses, perennials, annuals, trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and house plants. It controls all stages of insects (adult, larvae, and egg). It acts as a growth regulator, antifeedant, repellent, and contact killer of many common and hard-to-control insect pests, including thrip.

Although the list of plants affected by INSV keeps growing, I do not know if it affects mountain laurel and evergreens since most of the research done thus far has focused on flower crops, vegetables, and weeds.

Click here to read more about Neem Oil and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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