Plant Profile Redux: Sweet Almond Verbena
One of the most fun aspects of hosting GardenLine is how talking about a specific plant, even briefly, can generate so much email. And that interest almost always seems to come as a delayed reaction.
Here's a good example.
"I heard you talking about a plant you dearly love that smells great; some kind of almond plant! But I couldn't write it down when you were talking about it, and I can't remember what it was. And now I want to go get one."
It was probably three weeks ago that I mentioned this plant. Yet, no fewer than five emails came in since Sunday asking about the same thing. So, I thought it was worth reviewing a profile I once did on that plant, the sweet almond verbena.
Technically, it's known as the aloysia. And, as the listener noted in the email, its most remarkable attribute is wonderfully fragrant blooms. In fact, other than the night-blooming cereus, not many fragrant plants sweeten up the air as much as almond verbena. (Personally, I'm not a big fan of the night-blooming cereus because I think its fragrance can be overwhelming.)
Once the sweet almond verbena starts blooming, it will keep blooming day and night with clusters of white flowers that attract butterflies and bees from late spring until the first freeze. And, yes, it can withstand our winters. I didn't lose any of mine in the freezes of January 2010 or February 2011. While it may shed its leaves during the heart of winter, it always seems to come roaring back by springtime.
I have some in pots and one massive planting in the landscape. While it's obviously easier to provide winter protection for the containerized ones, the landscape specimens will become drought-tolerant after a year.
I guess there are only a couple of downsides to the plant. First, while the blooms are fragrant and beautiful, the plant and its leaves don't stand out too much, and they're rather boring. Second, those in containers will need to be watered a lot by hand, because the leaf canopy is so dense Mother Nature's rains rarely get to the roots. And its root system is so prolific and dense, it requires more than normal watering.
I think you can feed it just about anything for blooming plants. I've fed mine a number of things, and it seems to like them all. So, as long as you use at least a 1-2-1 ratio fertilizer, it should respond well. I've used Nelson's Color Star with great success as well, although it's not a 1-2-1 blooming-plant food ... it's a slow- or controlled-release blooming plant food. That means you only have to use it every 2-3 months.
You're not likely to find this plant at big-box store nurseries. In fact, the prolific local wholesale grower, Treesearch Farms, only sells to Houston-area independent nurseries and garden centers. At one time, it was only available at a few select nurseries, but that has changed in the past five years. More and more independents carry this plant today. So, if you have a good relationship with a favorite retailer, ask them to order this spectacular plant from Treesearch Farms for you.
But this is not the only "fragrant" plant for your garden. Another one I casually mentioned two weeks ago, the sweet olive, can be found at just about every garden center in town. Do a little Google searching, and you'll be impressed with how many plants you can incorporate for fragrant gardening.
The Grower's Outlet, Willis
So, how appropriate is this? I also got an email recently from Terry at The Grower's Outlet, 11173 N. US 75, Willis, gushing about the abundance of cool plants they will have on hand for my appearance there on Saturday. And, you guessed it, they just got in a great supply of sweet almond verbena.
If that's the only reason you come see me out there, that would be just fine. But let me tempt you with a few other treats.
First, Dan Snyder with Nitro-Phos will be on hand to answer technical fertilizer questions. And I talked him into giving away several bags of Nitro-Phos Super Turf and Nitro-Phos Sweet Green. So, just put your name and phone number on a registration slip. You don't have to be present to win, but if you're there when they call your name, you'll also get a Lemmonhead shirt.
The Grower's Outlet still has lots of fruit trees for sale and a huge selection of annuals and perennials, too ... most of which were grown in their own facility. They can also help with Mother's Day gift ideas, like their spectacular and world-famous hanging baskets.
If you haven't been out there in a while, they have their 6,000-square foot display garden rocking, so you can see what survived last summer's drought with minimal watering. And starting next weekend, their farmers market will be in full swing, featuring locally grown produce and honey.
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