On Gardening: See-through phenomenon allows creation of dazzling flowerbeds


There is a “see-through” phenomenon going on in the world of flowers and it is nothing short of thrilling. This is happening thanks in large part to the mass production of Meteor Showers verbena and to some extent Truffula Pink gomphrena.

Some of us have dabbled in the “see-through” world with giant alliums and reveled in the possibilities with agapanthus if we lived in a zone that could grow them. But now with these two plants from Proven Winners we can design gardens with the thought of a thrilling season long performance.

You may be thinking what is “see through”? Meteor Showers generically speaking has often been called verbena on a stick. Some say, it bears the flowers on stilts while other say it naked. It is precisely this 30-inch plus habit that provides you the ability to create a cloud of blooms that seem to be floating in air above your other flowers.

For instance, right now in Columbus, Ga., I can take you to beds where these lilac blue blooms are floating above fiery orange Luscious Marmalade lantanas. In another bed, they are magically blooming above Calliope Red geraniums bordered with Diamond Snow euphorbias. The look is red, white and blue all the way. There are similar beds with SunPatiens and if you could only see the Meteor Shower blossoms floating above the blazing hot new Viking begonias.

Son James has been creating these beds in commercial properties across our area. Sometimes he will line the Meteor Shower plants up formally like toy soldiers but his joy is to plant the beds where the verbenas have a random look as if Mother Nature was doing a roadside or meadow type planting.

Meteor Showers is known botanically as Verbena bonariensis and is a stunning fairly-new cultivar. Before Meteor Showers the generic form was really a pass-along kind of plant with a love-hate relationship. We loved it for its beauty and unique stature which often was quite tall, but held our breath when it came to re-seeding. Then a couple of dwarf varieties hit the market and are still somewhat available but have never reached a widespread popularity or availability.

Meteor Showers is different, it has little reseeding and is now massed produced. Proven Winners calls it lilac in color which is certainly appropriate but it is not hard to see blue shades throughout the day as I mentioned above. It is treasured by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and blooms all summer and has the ability to be perennial in zones 7 and warmer. It has award winner written all over it.

Truffula Pink gomphrena is known botanically as Gomphrena pulchella it also gives an incredible see-though look with its hot pink blossoms. The plant gets wider than Meteor Showers with more lower leaves. It can work however in the same type application but will require a little more planning and thought in the design versus the almost carefree randomness allowed by Meteor Showers. It too will reach almost 30 inches with a spread to 26 inches. It has won 41 awards across the country and is a pollinator magnet too.

Both of these plants will make you look like a garden pro if you provide fertile well drain soil with plenty of sun. The fun part will be designing you bed of color in layers the bottom flowers and then your magical cloud floating above whether they be the lilac blue of Meteor Showers verbena or the hot pink of Truffula Pink gomphrena. No one says you can’t do both!

(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.)

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