On Gardening: The queen rules with elegance in this year’s mixed containers

This 14-inch bowl features Queen Tut as the thriller with Supertunia Mini Vista Indigo petunia, Supertunia Persimmon and Solenia Chocolate Orange begonia. (Norman Winter/TNS)
This 14-inch bowl features Queen Tut as the thriller with Supertunia Mini Vista Indigo petunia, Supertunia Persimmon and Solenia Chocolate Orange begonia. (Norman Winter/TNS)

Oh my gosh, the queen has spoken.

I am talking about the plant queen, who indeed does rule all mixed container designs in 2023: Queen Tut papyrus, Proven Winners' new selection in their Graceful Grasses program.

I've been showing several images in previous articles, and even more on my Facebook page. The gardening public has gone simply wild about the delicate look provided by each tufted airy stem. I simply forgot that last year was a trial year for garden writers and such, and therefore this year it is new to the gardening public.

Botanically speaking it is Cyperus prolifer, and despite it being from Africa, you do not need the Nile River to grow it (or any river, creek or body of water). You may have seen some growing in water gardens, but they will do just fine in mixed containers.

Since you will be growing it in a mixed container, you do not need to worry about how perhaps it needs more water than your Superbells, Superbenas or Supertunias. Most of us are relegated to watering our containers every day in the summer, and this will be perfectly fine for the queen.

The next biggest fear or misconception: If Prince Tut papyrus needed the jaws of life to get out of the pot, surely this will be the same with Queen Tut. This is simply not the case -- or it wasn't for me, as I simply pulled them out of last year's containers. These are annuals everywhere I have lived, but they might be perennial in zones 9 and warmer.

Queen Tut is the grassy element you have longed for. It reaches 18-24 inches tall with a 12- to 18-inch spread. When you design your containers, don't worry about its spread. Simply plant it in the center and then start placing fillers and spillers around it. (I can tell many of you are fretting over how many plants are in your containers -- or maybe mine.)

You might be asking, what size of container is that? You put how many plants in there? Most of my pots are 14 inches; I have a couple of 16-inch pots and a few in the 10-to-12-inch category. I am a sucker for reconstituted bamboo and agave containers and was forcibly stopped at the back door as I was taking my wife's glazed orange pot made out of paper.

My 14-inch pots have a thriller and four to five others representing spiller and filler. Believe me, even when planted I still may stick a sprig of Lemon Coral Sedum or Goldilocks Creeping Jenny in a little spot that sees sunlight just to see what develops over time.

But back to the star of the show, Queen Tut papyrus. To me this is like Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem "How Do I Love Thee?" I love it with Heart to Heart Burning Heart caladiums; I love it with Solenia Apricot's glowing begonia blossoms and paired with blue petunias. I love it in mixed containers that are so colorful they look like sapphires and rubies. Yet the crown on top is the elegant Queen Tut.

The point is, you cannot create a mixed container that will not be made more beautiful by the addition of Queen Tut papyrus. Now your challenge will be finding this gorgeous grass.

Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.

photo This container demonstrates how beautiful foliage can be with contrasts in color and texture. Queen Tut is paired here with Heart to Heart, Burning Heart caladiums. (Norman Winter/TNS)
photo In colorful containers that might resemble Sapphires and Rubies, Queen Tut elegantly sits as the crown. Partners are Superbells Grape Punch, White Knight Sweet alyssum and Supertunia Mini Vista Scarlet petunia. (Norman Winter/TNS)
photo Graceful Grasses 'Queen Tut papyrus is making its debut this spring and is the perfect finishing touch to your mixed containers no matter the partnership. Here Queen Tut is partnered with Solenia Apricot begonia and Supertunia Mini Vista Ultramarine petunias. (Norman Winter/TNS)

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