President Obama the other day put a special council together to address the “bee decline” due to insecticide use in our country. Well, it is about time, but it may be too late to correct some of the damage if we all don’t do something now instead of waiting for a “council” to make suggestions.You can plant natural pesticides in your garden today + make a difference instead of waiting.The annual petunia is one that can pack a punch in your garden with pests and also provide beauty. It not only helps protect plants in the nightshade family like tomato, eggplant, peppers and potatoes it also looks beautiful + smells delightful in an evening garden.
In old Victorian Gardens, they use to have “fragrance” it was the most important part, but today all we care about are big double blooms where the fragrance has been ignored by breeders. It is just like our McMansions we built in the 80’s, we think bigger is better. Well, it is not always better when we try to “over improve” on things in nature. We lose some of the best parts of our physical world. Think about the tomato, the green shoulders have been bred out of our tomato which was what gave it the flavor, but we have perfect “red” tomatoes.“Those green shoulders turn out to be more significant than you might think. In the journal Science, they found that when green shoulders disappeared from modern plants, some of the tomato’s taste went with them.” Now which would you prefer, pretty vegetables, or ones that taste amazing?
I use companion planting in my garden every year and as the years pass by, I have found certain petunias to be more fragrant than others. This year the star for fragrance is Bid Daddy Petunia! I grew them early spring and they are just jumping out of their containers!
I found Big Daddy “out scented” Old fashioned and some of my other heirloom petunias by a mile. It was a surprise to me since I just assumed the “old-fashioned” petunia were the best scented. I had tried several others that were different colors, sizes, shapes, and doubles( yes even I can give into eye candy at times-lol) which had no fragrance. I started Palm Rae Potager 14 years ago, to have food to eat, feed pollinators, and create a fragrant garden.
A few summers ago I grew heirloom petunias “Old-fashioned Vining + California Giants” which did wonderfully, but the only one that had fragrance was Old Fashioned Vining.The California Giant was beautiful , but had no fragrance which was one of the reasons I decided to just keep the seed and try some others.
This year, I started Big Daddy Blue under lights to use in my containers, and what a difference.
I read somewhere that the “purple veining” was responsible for the fragrance + only the purple , or white ones carried the scent gene.
Petunias are recognized as nature’s version of a pesticide.I plant petunias around my tomato, peppers, and eggplant. The petunia is part of the nightshade family + will provide protection with pests that can destroy a nightshade’s crop.An annual petunia repels asparagus beetles, leaf hoppers, some aphids,cabbage worms,tomato horn worms, Japanese Beetles, cabbage loopers, weevils,and Mexican bean beetles to name a few.
I also found this year my “old-fashioned Vining ” petunia reseeded in all my vegetable beds, so I did not have to save seed I find the old-fashioned a bit leggy, but do enjoy it rambling through my vegetable beds. I like the compact form of the Big Daddy Blue Petunia a bit better since the old-fashioned can get quite large and crowd out other vegetables , flowers and herbs. I will edge my vegetable beds next year with Big Daddy + let my Old Fashioned Vining reseed where it feels each season. I just pull them as seedlings if I do not want them to grow in a particular place.
As you grow petunias in your garden, you will find not all petunias are so heavily fragrant. The best scents come from blue and purple petunias.Petunias’ trap the cabbage worm which eats holes in your Brassica family plants like kale, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower. The petunia traps the cabbage worm. If left unchecked the cabbage worm will eat through an entire crop of Brassica, so by planting petunias with your Brassica crop it is the best organic method to eliminate this problem.
I also started 3 new Concord Grape vines in our urban potager this year and learned that petunias protect your grapes from nematodes, mites, aphids,and moths. Nematodes have been known to attack grape-vine roots which can lead to stunted growth. By planting petunia near your grapes, you are insuring healthy plants, protection to pests, and this year I found protect against drought for they act as a mulch by covering the roots near your vines and other plants. Petunias are very drought tolerant!
Petunias are a great “natural pesticide” you can add to your gardens to protect against a wide variety of pests. and also their pleasant smell will attracts a variety of pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and moths to your garden which are all beneficial to the health of your natural oasis! Next time you see a petunia think about how it will help you fight pests and attract through a lovely fragrance pollinators to your garden….
When you see petunias wandering through your vegetable beds, you have the benefit of protection and “eye candy” which is not so bad when you are trying to grow food and create a place people + pollinators want to spend time!