In the Garden:
Middle South
July, 2011
Regional Report

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Though at least six hours of sunlight is suggested, Bubblegum performs well with less in my shady garden.

Pretty in Pink & Lip-Smacking Sweet

Petunias were always a favorite of my grandmother, who circled her front yard birdbath with the frilly flowers each summer, but I've never been partial to these showy annuals until now. What changed my mind? Simple, it was (and is) a non-stop, no-trouble petunia called Bubblegum.

This cloud of pink flowers found its way to my garden by way of a friend, Genelle, who visited me earlier this season with a dozen other gardeners who volunteer at the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University. Bubblegum, as it happens, proved itself in the Arboretum's trial gardens, and when the group arrived for a three-day tour of local Upstate gardens, the plant was given to me with the guarantee that I would "love it, love it, love it!"

My friend was right. Though the sunniest spot in my garden only receives a tad more than two hours of sunlight each day, the plant has spilled over the edge of its front-stoop container in an unequaled show of exuberance. The plant is vigorous and self-cleaning, and its trumpet-shaped blooms make an excellent companion for the mix of foliage plants and the standard cherry-red rose that share its pot.

The color of this petunia is exactly what you would guess -- a warm pink shade that brings to mind childhood bubblegum-blowing contests and the lip-smacking sweetness worth the risk of school detention. The saturated pink hue combines well with any and all shades of purple, holds its own against bold yellow, and looks especially rich when paired with burgundy. It's also drop-dead-gorgeous with chartreuse foliage, such as that of 'Margarita' sweet potato and 'Aurea' creeping Jenny.

From what I hear, Bubblegum is equally floriferous when planted in garden beds. There it grows into handsome mounds that reach 16 to 24 inches tall. In addition to dropping its spent flowers, the petunia has the added advantages of being pet friendly (non-poisonous to cats and dogs) and fairly drought tolerant once established.

Most annual plants are heavy feeders and Bubblegum is no exception. A healthy measure of compost and a controlled release fertilizer is recommended for garden beds. Container-grown plants will appreciate a kick-start of controlled release fertilizer, as well as a weekly application of water-soluble fertilizer after the first month of growth.

A "haircut" will restore Bubblegum's shape and vitality if the plant becomes a bit spindly as summer's sultry weather persists. Just remove about 20 percent of length from the growing tips and fertilize for another round of blooms.

There's even more good news about my now-favorite petunia. Bubblegum is one of a trio of plants known as Supertunia Vista petunias. Its buddies, Silverberry and Fuchsia, offer additional color choices and share nearly-equal acclaim.


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