Heroes and Villains

a2zmom(6a - nj)August 27, 2012

This was a difficult gardening season weather wise for may of us. What were your stand out performers this year? What were the duds?

I am going to discus my newest garden, which I planted least year. This garden is yellow, orange and gold and many of the plants were new to me.


Helenium 'Mardi Gras' - this started blooming late June and is still going. No floppiness, a bee magnet, no mildew. The only downside is I do between 50 - 100 deadheads a day. Of course, that just shows how many blooms the plants produce.

Kniphofia 'Alcazar' - this started budding in mid June and is still blooming now. A real show stopper, this plant gets asked about more than any other plant I own.

Agastache mexicana 'Acapulco Orange' - I planted three small plants last year that were being sold as annuals. This is now a huge grouping that was covered in flowers starting early July and hasn't stopped since. The leaves smell citrus-y when you brush by. Deer don't eat it. Bees and butterflies love it.

Plants were just beginning to flower:


Viola cornuta 'Chantreyland' - even with faithful watering, the plants dried up and died. The same thing happened with different violas last year.

Trollius chinensis 'Golden Queen' - the plants haven't flowered or put on new growth. Suggestions welcome on how to make this plant happier.

Alcea rugosa - I've gown hollyhocks in the past, so I'm no stranger to their problems but this year was particularly brutal. Severe rust, Japanese bettle damage, leaf miners and a lot of the buds turned black prior to opening (i'm not sure if that was due to rust or something else. I've never seen that before.) All in all, a miserable year for my hollyhocks.

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Holy cow a2zmom that photo of your Kniphofia 'Alcazar' has to be one of the best pics posted in this forum in 2012...outstanding! How long has this particular plant been in your garden?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 3:43PM
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So glad to hear that Alcazar has a long bloom time. That was one of my new additions in the spring. Mine was small and only had a couple blooms but now I'm looking forward to next year.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 4:12PM
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a2zmom(6a - nj)

Rouge, the Kniphofia got planted last year, May 30. What's amazing is they had arrived from Brent and Becky's bulbs on the 17th and I somehow forgot this was an actual plant, not a bulb. So it sat in a box in my garage for 2 weeks and still did spectacularly. That's a hardy plant.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 4:24PM
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I don't have enough time to post pictures or give my 'villains' at this time but FWIW these perennials were excellent performers for me up till now (as with many of you there are still lots of flowers to come for the fall season):

- Columbine 'Blue and White' (exquisite spring flowers)
- Becky 'Shasta' Daisy (an impressive large stand of long lasting flowers; water 'sipper')
- Veronica Speedwell 'Royal Candles' (great colour of flower, compact habit, good rebloom and water sipper)
- Phlox 'Peppermint Twist' (blooms for so long and reblooms with a cut back and little mold or mildew)
- Phlox 'Shockwave' (great variegated foliage and blooms that don't clash with this foliage)
- Max Frei hardy geranium (a oldie but a goodie; mass of blooms in May and a very nice tight compact habit all season)
- 'Cezanne' clematis (compact and lots of long lasting blooms; a very impressive plant when in flower)
- Heliopsis 'Tuscan Sun' (I have never seen so many flowers at one time on any heliospis; *always* tons of flowers, compact size and a water sipper)(just recently though I see one has some aphids)
- Thalictrum 'Splendide' (such a unique plant with very long lasting flowers that although very tall takes up a small footprint i.e. anyone can find room for it)
- Heucherella 'Solar Eclipse' (I am not a big heuchera fan but this one is striking)
- Tierella 'Sugar and Spice' (long lasting spring flowers, great foliage)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 4:49PM
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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

About your trollius....I have on occasion had to wait 3 years for a new trollius to bloom, but then it comes on with a vengeance. Did you have a hot and dry summer? Trollius generally prefer cool and moist conditions. Which I guess is why mine do so well :-(

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 2:52AM
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- Penstemon "Sweet Joanne". I have two. One has done enough for me to keep it in my garden for next year but the other is slowly wasting away

- Hydrangea "Tokyo Delight". I planted it August 2011 and only one single very very small bloom this season

- Hydrangea "Invincibelle Spirit". VILLAIN. I guess enough blooms in July but the pink is not nice and no new blooms at all in August and the spent blooms are horrific looking

- Banana Cream Shasta Daisy. VILLAIN. Put in the ground in 2010. There is almost nothing about this plant that I like.

- 'Russian Stonecrop'. I dont think I am using it correctly. It does flower yellow in the spring but just seems to messy to me when it is out of flower especially when it goes to seed (and it doesn't seem to flower long enough for my liking)

- NO MORE Impatiens annual for me. Slowly but surely my impatiens have been withering away, keeling over, victims of the 'blight'.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 5:19PM
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I would not call mine underperformers, because most of them actually performed. It is about disappointments of various sorts.

1) Sanguisorba 'Stand Up Comedian' Beautiful red stems with beautiful foliage but the 'Stand Up'-part is not entirely true. It applies only to the middles of the clumps, the outer parts just relax way too much. So they are on their way out of here. The sad part is I bought 3 of them.
2) Peonies : they were ravaged by fungi this year, 1 clump did not even open a single flower properly , they all got rotten.
3)Phlox Drosselbart- flopper three years in a row, and the colour is not a one I could not live without , so out with it.
4) Veronicastrum Apollo- no branches and the plant actually withered after blooming-out it goes.
5)Many seedlings of Vernonia arkansana- were supposed to be 1,5 m tall. Up to now nearly all went up to 2.5 m and lay on the ground more or less. Out they go.
6)Daylily Double River Wye- healthy grower, but just too few flowers per stem.
7) Leucanthemum Goldrush- terrible flopper
8)Iris sibirica Heliotrope Bouquet-terrible flopper, 2 flowers per stem
9) Salvia Rhapsody in Blue-died in winter
10)Salvia Eveline- nothing special and flopping here(though the pictures of it were breathtaking)

Plants that improved since last year:

Helenium Mardi gras- much better branched,so it stays here
Phlox Blaue Morgen- did not flop this year so it stays until further notice

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 7:01PM
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wieslaw I recall you singing the praises of Phlox 'Herbstwalzer'. With another year almost gone are you still enamored with it? And any idea if it goes by another name in NAmerica?

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 7:20PM
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a2zmom(6a - nj)

Rouge, so glad you posted both your heroes and villains! I'm not growing any of these plants, so this is very useful info.

Penstemon 'Dark Towers' is a very heavy bloomer for me. It only blooms in the early summer, but it's quite a show and the dark foliage is nice the rest of the season.

Here it is, June 7 of this year:

I also recommend Penstemon 'Red Riding Hood'. I will sometimes get three flushes of bloom, although this year only two. Here it is, also early June:

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 8:16PM
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Campanula UK Z8

um, penstemons - I am somewhat overrun with these (being as they are propagated almost as easily as salvias) and now have to do a massive cull this year - quite a few customers will be getting them snuck into their not anywhere near as full gardens as mine.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 7:52AM
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Ispahan Zone6a Chicago

I love threads like this. Thank you for starting it! :-)

Most of my perennials were planted either late last fall or early this spring, so they are not yet established. Also, the severe heat and drought this summer was very difficult for many plants to cope with, especially those that did not yet have a good root system in the ground.

That said, here are the plants that have managed to impress me (heroes), in no particular order:

1. Anemone 'Honorine Jobert'. Just opened her first bloom today and looks fresh and elegant and healthy.
2. Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta. A lovely little plant that has been bloooming its head off nonstop for the past several months and shows no signs of stopping. Beloved of pollinating insects.
3. Geranium 'Rozanne'. When she is good, she is *very* good. And she survived the drought and heat splendidly, even managing to produce
some blooms.
4. Lycoris chinensis. I planted these on a whim, but they have been an incredible source of joy all through August as they have sent up their scapes of golden yellow blooms. Gorgeous.
5. Lilium regale and Orienpet hybrid lilies. Amazingly beautiful flowers, strong pleasant fragrances and sturdy growth habits. Barely seemed to be affected by the heat when in bloom.
6. Phlox 'David', 'Peppermint Twist', 'Jeana' and 'Old Cellarhole' (this last one is a found variety sold by Perennial Pleasures Nursery in Vermont). These all bloomed beautifully this summer and tolereated the heat and drought much better than the other phlox cultivars I planted. No signs of mildew on any of them.
7. Agastache 'Blue Blazes'. This cultivar really does look like its on fire when backlit by the sun. I only hope it manages to overwinter for me.
8. Hemerocallis citrina 'Yao Ming'. I am not a daylily collector or fan, but yet I love this one. Large nocturnal blooms that glow in the evening light and waft and intense, heady, sweet lemon perfume into the night air. I look forward to my clumps maturing.
9. Allium hybrids 'Millennium', 'Summer Beauty' and 'Sugar Melt' as well as Allium tuberosum and Allium nutans 'Pam Harper'. Beautiful, compact plants with lovely blooms in late summer. Foliage on all of these is very attractive.
10. Sedums. I love the late summer blooms and ease of propagation.
11. Crambe maritima. The huge glaucous leaves look stunning in my garden beds and it has not seemed affected at all by the heat and drought.

And here is a list of plants that have displeased me for whatever reason (villains):

1. Penstemon 'Sweet Joanne'. I planted 9 of these and only two remain alive, and I am on the verge of ripping them out. One by one they succumbed to some wilt disease and died. My remaining plants look messy and floppy. I was not impressed by the few blooms I saw.
2. Geranium 'Sandrine'. This plant never really got the chance to grow and settle in since it died as soon as the temperature went above 90.
3. Lilium 'Golden Splendor', 'African Queen' and 'Pink Perfection'. Yuck! My first year stems of these lilies were 6-7 feet tall and horribly floppy. Blooms looked unrefined and fragrance was not even a fraction of that on Lilium regale. These are already gone. Good riddance.
4. Echinacea 'PowWow Wild Berry'. These plants are alive, healthy and blooming, but all of them (from two different sources) have bloomed out wishy-wishy pale pink. Bleck! I was hoping for magenta.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 11:51AM
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isphan did you notice that some of our plant selections overlap? For example "Peppermint Twist". For sure a great Phlox for both of us. It blooms so long and easily reblooms with some dead heading.
(But it grew much taller than advertised. My plan next year is to cut it back some in late May or June, (before flowering))

And also both of us had issues with "Sweet Joanne". One of mine did survive its first winter and has flowered pretty well but the other is doing maybe like yours is ie wilting away. But you have invested in *9*? Wow!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 2:22PM
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Campanula UK Z8

I too, enjoy these threads, but I often end up feeling that I am condemning a particular plant when the true culprit is frequently myself. Dahlias were particularly excellent despite the lack of sun and hoards of snails whereas the same dahlias last year were quite rubbish - mainly because they had sort of dropped off my radar and had a summer of neglect.
Anyhow, making allowances for my uncertain care, I had a really great show of golden oats - Stipa gigantea, after eviscerating a huge cytisus which was overhanging the Stipa (and utterly negating the whole point of a plant like S.gigantea)
Indigofera heterantha was winterkilled to the ground but burst into growth from the base and is now delighting me with its airy foliage and lavender pea flowers. Althea cannabina has not really gained much popularity in the UK although it is a terrific late summer stand-by. Sort of like an autumn thalictrum (of which Splendens is proving its worth). Also in my scree garden (which has been largely a joy all season, unlike any other part of the plot), pulsatilla provided weeks of welcome early spring vibrancy and continued to please with silky seedheads and finely cut foliage and most thrillingly, a large paeonia delavayii lutea , after 5 years of existing solely as a foliage plant, finally prodused a dozen sunshiny globes of bloom.
On the downside, Helenium Sahin's early flower was thugged out by an over vigorous rudbeckia. White digitalis were actually a murky pink (those busy bees, pollinating willy-nilly), Astrantia were really a bit mimsy - the sort of plant which appeals to people who like toad lilies or wild orchis or tiny fritillaries- far too subtle, delicate and refined for my taste or style and totally wasted in the chaotic public weedpit I call a garden.
Finally, and I know these are not perennials but honestly, I sweated and faffed over 60 tomatoes - they lived in my bedroom for weeks, pampered and cossetted under lights it was such a nightmare of a summer - and they were and are, a complete waste of time, effort and space - although, on the upside, no hours of stirring sauces and ketchups either.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 5:36PM
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Ispahan Zone6a Chicago

Rouge21, yes, I did invest in 9 Penstemon 'Sweet Joanne' but they were only $3.75 each. I ordered them from Bluestone Perennials when they were 50% off plus I had several coupons to use. So really not much money lost, although I certainly am disappointed about their horrid performance. Sigh. Live and learn. I am sure they are susceptible to some sort of wilt disease.

I also purchased 9 Penstemon 'Dark Towers' at the same price and all of them are still alive. They were very small when I planted them so I didn't get many blooms this summer but the foliage is lovely. I can't wait to see how they perform next season.

My Phlox 'Peppermint Twist' has remained less than two feet tall. I planted it last fall. For me, it has been a great little plant.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 5:36PM
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My Phlox 'Peppermint Twist' has remained less than two feet tall.

Mine was similarly in its first year when I planted it in the spring of 2011. But this year it rose to well over 3 feet tall. But with wonderful long lasting blooms.

Here is a link that might be useful: tall Peppermint Twist

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 5:51PM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

Penstemons are all heroes here in my book! Those are fantastic A2Z!

But I'm here to talk about villains. I have terrible problems with overly aggressive self-seeding plants. I feel like plants should be tagged with a self-seeding index so you have some warning that you are going to spend the rest of your free garden time pulling up thousands of unwelcome progeny.

So my villain list includes plants that have unintentionally caused me hours of work this year:

Geranium sanguineum - very pretty and tough but the seedlings take root fiercely and are awfully tough to pull.

Anemone sylvestris 'Snow Drop' - again so pretty and blooms both spring and fall. But they spread both by seed and by runners. This evening I spent an hour digging clumps of these out and I still only got about halfway done.

Labrador violet - wow, if you want a tough-as-nails groundcover that will obliterate everything it its path, plant this. But otherwise beware!

California poppies? The jury is out. They are easy enough to pull and they sure are pretty. But really, does each plant really need to toss out 1,000 seeds? 999 of which germinate?

My new policy is that at the beginning of each garden season I identify the worst 2 or 3 offenders and I take out every single plant from then on. No tolerance! Hypothetically this will reduce my problem in future years, even though I am still pulling catmint and yarrow seedlings even though I haven't let one of those bloom in years.

Sorry to be whiny. Like I said this is my number one problem in my gardens, but maybe someday I will be able to reduce the influx of villains and spend my garden time on happier tasks. :)

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 11:25PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Karin, whine away , I am with you all the way - we even have the same offenders - and will add verbena bonariensis, valerian, linaria purpurea and ox-eye daisies. I have a scree bed in gravel which means digging out little seedlings around every little stone - the hoe, my usual weapon of choice, is hopeless in gravel. Feh!
And, do you feel a bit mean, consigning them to the compost bin (because I dare not pass these along, unlike the penstemons and heleniums which everyone is happy to have) - although a good few geranium- sanguineum, phaeum, pratense, oxoniamum(sp?) and sylvestris have been rehomed.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 3:43AM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

Thank you for the co-miseration Campanula, that makes me feel better. Gravel seems to exacerbate the problem with its combination of easy germination and tough extraction. Of course I opted to pave all my garden paths with pea gravel, a choice I deeply regret.

Yes, I feel totally mean, especially when they are perfectly good plants that I am yanking unceremoniously. But after the 1000th one, I no longer feel guilty but more annoyed with the whole situation. In two cases I have resorted to roundup which feels so silly on a plant that people pay money to have!

Agreed, there are a few seedlings that I generally save: penstemon, columbine, echinacea. There are almost always happy takers for these volunteers.

I do think a self-seeding index should be added to plant tags. Sometimes you want a plant to spread. Sometimes not. It would be nice to know what to expect, and nowadays I google up any new plant to learn about its potential for unwanted proliferation.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 10:52AM
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Rouge, I'm still enamored in Phlox Herbstwalzer(it has not started to bloom yet). If I was only allowed to keep 1 autumn blooming plant, it would be the one(imagine bright pink for the whole September and October). I doubt you can find it over there, I have only seen it offered by the nursery in Germany where it was bred.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 5:17PM
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Such a late blooming phlox would be wonderful to have. The only german bred phlox carried by my favourite independent nursery is Phlox 'D´┐Żsterlohe'.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 6:51PM
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Dusterlohe(with two dots above u) is the original name for the cultivar renamed in US to Nicky. What is 'funny' it has RETURNED to Europe with the new name and sold as NEW.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 7:30PM
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Now that is an interesting tidbit of information wieslaw....thank you. (I see this same nursery also advertises "Nicky"!)

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 7:01AM
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The same applies to the cultivar called Laura. It is an ancient(pre-war) Russian cultivar called Uspekh, so you do not need both. Those re-naming games are so annoying.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 7:58AM
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a2zmom(6a - nj)

karin, I also am not too fond of agressive seeders. Although I do grow verbena bonariensis, I have to admit. It's not a big deal to yank, so I don't mind that one.

ispahan, do you find that Anemone 'Honorine Jobert' spreads a lot? I would plant an anemone, but I'm nervous because I understand they spread via runners.

Wieslaw, my salvia Eveline doesn't flop at all. I like it because it's one of my earliest bloomers every year.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 10:00PM
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a2zmom I have several Anemomone including "HJ" and "September Charm" and I find it not difficult to keep each in bounds. I consider them to be important members of my August and September garden. Just this season I planted one of the newer more compact cultivars....'Pretty Lady Diana' I think it is.

(I would really love to have the early blooming Anemone called "Wild Swan". It may be coming to North America in 2013)

Here is a link that might be useful: Lady Diana

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 10:22PM
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a2zmom wrote: Penstemon 'Dark Towers' is a very heavy bloomer for me. It only blooms in the early summer,

Thanks for that info. The very appealing feature of Penstemon 'SJ' is that once it starts blooming it continues all summer. Even today I noticed it has blooms.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 6:53PM
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Haven't noticed anyone with Phlox paniculata 'Peppermint Twist' (pink and white pinwheel flowers) talk about changes in their plants.

Bought four of them, in flower, in 2007 and now all show stem mutations, apparently back to the parent plant, P. paniculata 'Candy Floss' (solid dark pink (magenta)).

I haven't removed any of the mutated stems, but the majority of the stems on each plant are still the pink-white pinwheel.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 8:53PM
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Sunny, I bought 4 of these plants also in early 2011. We did notice this summer that one of the plants, in fact part of one plant ie one stem did revert/mutate to pinky coral coloured flowers. But overall these have been healthy bloom machines. I cant find a picture showing the 'reversion' but I have attached a picture from August 30th of one of these stands of two too tall phlox which shows their second round of flowers after I sheared them back upon completion of their first go around of blooms.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 6:02AM
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Very pretty picture, Rouge.

Tried to upload a picture myself, but need more time to work how out.

"Bloom machine" does describe the performance of my 'Peppermint Twist' too.
We still have three plants in bloom today.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 8:48PM
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Thanks Sunny.

I do hope you are able to upload pictures soon. If we can help please ask.

Is there much variation re duration of flowering for different varieties of PHLOX? I ask as I don't have much experience with PHLOX having only PTwist and 'Blue Paradise'. BP also does well but PT does better as it has essentially been in bloom since mid July! I am almost tired of seeing it alwsys in flower!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 10:56PM
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Have 25 named cultivars of garden phlox in our own garden and half a dozen No Names that came from the local horticultural society spring sale and that worked out well. Have used the latter particularly in other gardens.

Have only had over half of the names cultivars for two years or less, so not sure.

Looking out there today, the 'Cosmopolitan', 'Flame Purple' and 'Flame Coral' clearly have new buds opening, half a dozen other cultivars to a less extent.

As indicated, the most floriferous of all named cultivars I have, have probably been 'Peppermint Twist'; have had that with half a dozen others for five or more years.

A lot of what's blooming now is site specific, e.g. the variegated 'Norah Leigh' in one location is still in flower, but finished flowering in two other locations.

The Chicago Botanic Garden comparative study of garden phlox (2011) does include bloom times.

I would be very interested to hear what garden phlox have worked for other gardeners.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 12:57PM
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My best phlox this year has been my reverted Peppermint Twist so don't be too quick to toss them if they revert to solid pink. I don't have any others that bloom that heavy.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 8:32AM
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That is good to hear 'christie' as I only have 2 types with one being PT. With just a little reversion to that coral from a stem or two it appeared that I had two different plants. It looked kind of cool.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 9:16AM
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It's so vigorous/robust, I can see some people eventually getting overwhelmed (bored?) by too much 'Peppermint Twist'. I think the 'Candy Floss' reversions helps the appeal of the plant. The mutant stems can always be removed if people want to.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 9:56AM
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I understand exactly 'Sunny' re being 'bored' by it. I have two stands of two PT in two different gardens and sometimes after seeing those blooms for two months off and on (mostly on) I have thought "enough already"!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 1:06PM
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It's so interesting to hear other gardeners's reaction in such circumstances, Rouge.

You realize, it's not just me.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 5:54PM
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