THE GARDEN GUY: Knights, Princesses offer garden delights

The steps to our swing Thanksgiving week are full of color with Moonlight Knight sweet alyssum showing out. (TNS/Norman Winter)
The steps to our swing Thanksgiving week are full of color with Moonlight Knight sweet alyssum showing out. (TNS/Norman Winter)

As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I muttered to myself "Knights and Princesses" and it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. There was a cute marketing reason Proven Winners chose those names for their two series of lobularia or alyssum.

Little did I realize this had been addressed years ago, but I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer. To be honest, when Snow Princess made its debut somewhere around 2009, I thought that would have been the end for alyssum. After all, sweet alyssum heretofore had been considered for cool season; Snow Princess had just crossed over the tough-as-nails line and bloomed all season.

Now 14 years later, the five varieties that make up the Knight and Princess series have won more than 250 awards. One thing that is extra impressive to The Garden Guy is that these alyssums have won awards multiple years similar to what we have seen with Supertunia Vista Bubblegum petunia.

So, here I am Thanksgiving week in west Georgia, and my backyard is dazzling in colorful flower combinations thanks to these sweet alyssums. As component plants in mixed container recipes, they are unbeatable.

Snow Princess is the largest with the ability to trail up to 4 feet and 12 to 16 inches tall. This really opens the door to the tumbling off the edge look and even the ability to create a white blanket whether horizontal or vertical. Blushing Princes with a lavender blush is slightly smaller with a 3-foot spread and the same height. I am growing Blushing Princess in yellow glazed bowls with Superbells Black Currant Punch calibrachoa and Supertunia Mini Vista Midnight petunia.

The Knight series comes in three varieties: White, Moonlight with a flush of pastel yellow, and Violet with the color of royalty. These three have the ability to spread to 2 feet and reach 8 to 12 inches tall. The Knight series offers everything: fragrance, heat and cold tolerance and believe it or not attracts bees and butterflies.

You can never underestimate the power of white in a container and especially as the sun sets. As all the other colors start to disappear, the white is so reflective of light its presence is always seen even more so on a moonlight night.

Speaking of Moonlight, this variety is extra special. This is a soft yellow selection that has won Top Performer awards from north to south and Perfect Score All Season in Oregon. I am growing it in combination with Superbells Grape Punch and Black Currant Punch and with Heart to Heart, Flatter Me caladiums that are somehow still effective this late in the season.

No matter the variety of sweet alyssum, I use controlled release granular fertilizer at planting and then a dilute water-soluble mix throughout the summer. I usually trim back the foliage once in the summer. It doesn't necessarily occur at the same time but when the plant seems ready to cycle.

This year was exceedingly hot and dry and watering daily was mandatory. I have a lot of containers and it was quite apparent when I did a poor job on the containers with the sweet alyssum. Giving them a better drink of water showed an almost immediate response.

Designing mixed containers is one of the most enjoyable aspects of gardening and these five award winning varieties found in the Princess and Knight series of sweet alyssum will complete your recipes.

Norman Winter is a horticulturist, garden speaker and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden."

  photo  Moonlight Knight sweet alyssum overflows in this November container with Superbells Black Currant Punch calibrachoa and Heart to Heart Flatter Me caladium. (TNS/Norman Winter)