Right now, it seems like it’s a banner year for butterflies everywhere I travel in the South. While the big monarch butterfly migration hasn’t hit, the populations of others seem to be high. I’m not sure if there is a correlation, but it also seems as if pentas are having the most incredible year ever.What a quandary for the landscape industry. Cool-season flowers will soon be planted, and pentas and many other warm-season annuals are not only showing out, but are adorned with butterflies like few have seen.I am seeing the Graffiti series of pentas across Georgia. It was a little over a decade ago that I received a postcard that led me to notice them when I went to the California Spring Trials. The ‘Graffiti Red Lace’ pentas on the postcard were so beautiful, I thought surely they had been digitally enhanced prior to printing.At the trials, they were just as beautiful and I, too, easily duplicated that same image. Now, a decade later, landscape professionals, home gardeners and places like the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden at the Historic Bamboo Farm in Savannah are using them in great quantities, much to the delight of pollinators. There are several colors and a mix in the series. I also love the ‘Graffiti Lipstick’ and ‘Graffiti Violet.’ The Graffiti series is brought to us by Benary, whose headquarters is in Germany. Another impressive series I’m seeing in commercial landscapes this year is the HoneyCluster series from Syngenta. The HoneyCluster series comes in four colors and a mix and grows to a medium height. Next year’s highlight may be the Falling Star series, the first trailing pentas in the market.If you love butterflies, hummingbirds and four months or more of nonstop color, then you’ve got to try these new pentas. The leaves are shiny and attractive, which make for a great contrast with the star-shaped colorful blossoms.Blooms will be produced in abundance all summer if beds are prepared correctly. Choose a site in full sun for best flower production. Prepare the bed by incorporating 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. While tilling, incorporate 2 pounds of a slow-release, 12-6-6 fertilizer.The next step may be the most crucial to happiness with your pentas. If your soil is acidic and you grow azaleas, camellias or blueberries with ease, you will need to add lime to the planting area for your pentas. While preparing the soil, add 5 pounds of a pelletized lime per 100 square feet in sandy soil or 10 pounds in a clay-based soil. This is recommended because pentas prefer a soil pH of 7. Many gardeners annually apply lime to grass or vegetable gardens and, in this case, a little will help the pentas keep their flowers all summer.Pentas fit any style of garden. I like them in a tropical setting in front of bananas and elephant ears, but I love them in our Cottage Garden. Here we are using ‘Graffiti Red Lace,’ with ‘Chapel Hill Yellow’ lantana and the blue-flowered Brazilian buttonbush, which creates a perfect, triadic harmony of color and brings in pollinators.Releasing butterflies has become popular for some wedding venues. Here at the garden, our weddings have included the continuous flight of butterflies in our Cottage Garden thanks to Graffiti pentas. Your home can become a butterfly and pollinator sanctuary too. Follow me on Twitter: @CGBGgardenguru.
May 28, 2009WHO confirms H5N1 infections in pair of Egyptian 4-year-oldsThe World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed two recently reported H5N1 avian influenza infections in Egyptian children. One of the patients is a 4-year-old boy from Hehia City in Sharkia governorate. He got sick with a fever on May 24. The other case-patient is a 4-year-old girl from Abo Hammad district, also in Sharkia governorate, who became ill with a fever on May 23. Both children were admitted to Zagazig Fever Hospital, where they are receiving oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and are in stable condition. Both had close contact with sick and dead poultry. The cases raise Egypt’s number of WHO-confirmed H5N1 cases to 76, of which 27 have been fatal. The WHO’s global case count now stands at 431 cases and 262 deaths.[May 28 WHO statement]WHO offers new H5N1 recombinant vaccine strainThe WHO today announced that its collaborating center at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a new H5N1 recombinant vaccine virus based on specimens provided by Egypt’s health ministry. The A/Egypt/2321-NAMRU3/2007 (clade 2.2.1) virus is available to institutions, companies, and other pandemic vaccine developers under a material transfer agreement through the WHO’s Global Influenza Program or through the CDC.US donates avian flu gear to VietnamThe US Embassy in Hanoi announced yesterday that it is donating avian influenza preparedness supplies to Vietnam, which includes 4,000 sets of personal protective equipment and 100 boxes of biodegradable powder than can produce more than 20,000 liters of disinfectant to help public health workers respond to new outbreaks of avian or H1N1 influenza. Vietnam’s agriculture ministry requested the supplies, which will be distributed to veterinary departments in 10 provinces that are at high risk for avian flu. The supplies are worth more than $57,000.[May 27 US Embassy statement]