Our plant this week is the ‘Grapes’ cultivar of Gomphrena, which is sold under several other cultivar names, including ‘Itsy Bitsy’, ‘Teensy Weensy’, and ‘Little Grapes’. Although ‘Grapes’ is the most common name here in Central Texas, the other three seem a lot more appropriate, since the reference is to the flowers, which are bright purple, but certainly much smaller than any grape I’ve ever seen.
But what they lack in size they more than make up for in number and vibrancy. Mostly referred to as a perennial and listed as hardy to zone 8, in colder areas, and in unseasonably cold winters, this mounding plant with lanky floral stems is treated as an annual.
In our demonstration garden at the Travis County Extension office in south east Austin, it has been reliably evergreen since we planted it four years ago.
Plant in full sun and water moderately for best performance. Beds with a little extra organic matter are best, with seasonal applications of small aggregate, or even compost, mulch, which will break down and work its way into the soil more quickly, would help this plant thrive.
Gomphrena ‘Grapes’ flowers almost all year long, but the most intense display will occur in the fall. The long-stemmed flowers attract butterflies, dry easily, and make look great in floral arrangements.
If you don’t have room in your garden, Gomprena ‘Grapes’ also performs quite well in containers.
Our viewer pick This week goes to Victoria Dawson in Lakeway for her gorgeous native giant spiderwort (Tradescantia gigantea).
Last year, she took the excellent Go Native U Native Plant Gardening courses at the Wildflower Center. Since then, she’s converted her “suburban yard” into a native plant showcase for honey bees, birds, butterflies and people to enjoy.
She tells us: “Over the past year I have removed much of the typical lawn and planted more natives trees, grasses and flowers. This spring I was pleased to see so many plants recovered and in full bloom after taking a beating in last April’s severe hailstorm. Here’s one of my new resilient favorites: native giant spiderwort (Tradescantia gigantea) giant gleaming in the afternoon sun in my yard.”