The new, mildew-resistant Tapien series is nothing like ordinary bedding verbenas. They are vigorous, sun-loving spreaders that bloom from spring through fall. They thrive in heat and well-drained soil and are fairly drought tolerant. In USDA Hardiness Zones 9 and 10 they are perennial, though flowering nearly stops in winter. Everywhere else treat them like long-flowering annuals. They are great in flower beds, cascading over walls, or in containers. Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart, and they'll quickly fill in to cover the ground with lacy foliage 4 inches high. The bright clusters of flowers are carried just above the foliage. This year, look for two cultivars -- 'Tapien Blue' (actually a deep purple) and 'Tapien Pink'. Next year there should be even more colors, including a lavender and a light blue. The Tapien series is grown from cuttings and was developed by Japanese breeders using the South American species Verbena tenuisecta. That makes it a close relative of the 1993 All-America Selections winner 'Imagination', a medium purple variety that can be grown from seed. Another similar-looking plant, V. canadensis 'Homestead Purple', is slightly hardier, and will overwinter in zone 7. What sets the Tapien series apart is its strong mildew resistance and broad color range. Look for it in well-stocked garden centers, or by mail.
From the annual flower world comes 'Flamenco hybrid' pansy. It features 3-inch wide semi-double, fringed, flowers in colors such as violet, burgundy, blue, rose, and yellow. These Italian-bred plants are 12 inches tall and grow equally as well in spring as fall. They look best in window boxes, containers, and flower beds.
Plants and seeds of 'Razzmatazz' echinacea and 'Flamenco hybrid' pansy are available at local garden centers and through www.thompson-morgan.com