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On Gardening: Graceful Tut family creates true container elegance

Prince Tut and the dwarf exquisite Queen Tut papyrus grasses have put the proverbial ta-da in ‘The Garden Guy’s containers this year. The story, however, really goes back to October. I have two containers I call smokestacked in their shape. They are about 20 inches tall, ceramic-glazed and about the diameter of a Frisbee. The containers get adjusted two or three times a year, and I am headed to where they were what I call Tut Tweaked.

I planted Superbells Grape Punch and Superbells Tangerine Punch calibrachoas in the container that always have Goldilocks Creeping Jenny and White Knight sweet alyssum, which has been acting perennially for me. They came through the winter perfectly, perhaps flinching a day or two after we had a 21-degree day March 13.

In early April, I had the opportunity to try the new Supertunia Mini Vista Scarlet petunia. The containers already looked full, fairly fluffy and really pleasing. I used my trowel to gently part or start a crevice in between the runners of the Creeping Jenny. Then I used my fingers to fashion the hole in the potting soil just right for planting the petunia. A week or so later I received Graceful Grasses Queen Tut papyrus.

I felt this would be the perfect vertical but dwarf element for the containers. I admit in a yard full of monster perennials, I really had become slack in choosing vertical plants for height in containers. The Queen Tut was grown in a little larger container with a more vigorous root system. I fashioned a little larger hole using the same method. I really can’t tell that any detrimental root disturbance occurred.

Queen Tut will reach about 2 feet tall with a spread of 12 inches. I don’t have that much room for spread in these smoked containers and will cut back as needed to make The Garden Guy happy. These are considered annuals for most of the country, as they are cold hardy in zones 9 and warmer. I will evaluate their fate when October planting rolls around.

I did much the same thing with two white self-watering AquaPots. They were planted in October with Primo Wild Rose heuchera, Superbells Dreamsicle calibrachoa, Superbena White Out and Superbena Royale Chambray verbenas. Although the containers were eye-popping, they too were adjusted or tweaked in April, so to speak, by adding Graceful Grasses Prince Tut, the Proven Winners National Annual of the Year, and Superbells Pomegranate Punch calibrachoa.

Prince Tut is one of the most loved grasses for containers and flower beds. It will reach 30 inches tall, perhaps a little taller in the South, and screams "look at me!" When the early morning sun hits the curly tufts of foliage, you become mesmerized. It is cold hardy to zones 10 and warmer, but you’ll find it to be priceless as an annual.

King Tut papyrus is the leader of the family and is used the same way, as thrillers, accents in the garden and even as a water garden feature. It reaches close to 6 feet in height, which is dwarf compared to those growing along the Nile River. It is the granddaddy in the United States however, garnering 147 awards.

The Tut family of papyrus are must-have plants whether you want to use them in the landscape or in containers. The design possibilities will be endless. If you feel like you are too late this season for some reason, just remember The Garden Guy’s method of adjusting your containers with fresh plant material — you will always find you can do some Tut Tweaking to put the finishing touches to your designer containers.

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(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.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)