Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Friday, September 6, 2013

My Favorite Plant in the Garden Right Now...

...Is a Petunia.

I can hear Loree's horrified gasping and gnashing of teeth all the way up here in the Seattle/Tacoma area! (Loree's disdain of Petunias is famous.) I realize I'm risking my membership in the Kool Kid's Klub by choosing a lowly Petunia, but hey -- what's life without a little risk?

The Petunia I'm loving on this week is the 'Laura Bush' Petunia, which I grew from seed sowed this past winter and set out in four-inch pots in my plastic mini-greenhouse. I'm growing it in two colors, both mixed together, a deep lavender pink with a dark purple, veined throat, and another that is a much lighter pink, also with a purple throat. I planted the seedlings in a large mixed pot with a dark-leafed Coleus and some 'Purple Majesty' millet, set on my front porch beside my front door.

It has a mild scent, but you have to stick your nose right into the flower to pick it up.

The carefree foliage is lush and green, and has the typically sticky feel of Petunia foliage.

I haven't deadheaded it or cut it back at all this year, although cutting back is recommended. The flowers dry up inconspicuously and fall off on their own.

So what is the 'Laura Bush' Petunia? It's a reseeding annual that is both cold- and heat-tolerant as well as disease-resistant, and comes true from seed (unlike most fancy Petunias like 'Pretty Much Picasso', which must be grown from cuttings and won't come true from seed saved from plants bought at the nursery). The offspring of Petunia violacea, also known as the 'V.I.P' Petunia, it's the most prolific reseeding hybrid Petunia ever grown. 'Laura Bush' was the chance offspring of a single cross between the 'V.I.P.' Petunia and old-fashioned Petunia, and developed through selection of seedlings from that cross planted at the San Antonio Botanical Center. You can find more details than you ever want to know about its provenance here.

Wildseed Farms is the exclusive distributor of the seeds, which you can order here.

Love the pretty throat on this light pink one

It's a good companion to the other plants in the container with it, as well as to the nearby Solanum quitoense.

It's a tough plant that flowers profusely and was easy to grow from seed. How did it end up being named for former FLOTUS Laura Bush? That was the result of a fortuitously timed visit by her to Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas. The Petunia was near the end of its development and hadn't been named yet, but when the First Lady's visit drew near, someone came up with the idea that they should name it after her and plant it in the town square.

Here are some stats about it:

Height: 18-24 inches
Width: 15-18 inches
Hardiness: Zone 7-10
Sun: Full Sun (at least 7 hours)
Soil: Average moisture, mildly acidic

It probably clashes with the hot pink Begonia boliviensis, but I still love it!

This post is my contribution to danger garden's "Favorite Plant in the Garden" meme, which appears sporadically. You can read her current post about her Cordyline 'Cha Cha' here, as well as find links to the posts of other bloggers writing about their favorite plants.