Il­lu­sion Emer­ald Lace is a land­scape dream come true

Merced Sun-Star - - Chowchilla News - BY NORMAN WIN­TER

As you may have gath­ered, in my gar­den world lime green rules! Last year when I bought my house, I fan­ta­sized about what I would do ar­tis­ti­cally with the long rock wall that stretched al­most the whole width of the back­yard. Some­one re­ferred to it as a re­tain­ing wall and I was in­censed; this is The Wall, the fo­cal point of my soon-to-be mas­ter­piece. My plans in­cluded sev­eral plants of Il­lu­sion Emer­ald Lace Sweet Potato to gen­tly drape over the rocks.

Alas I could not get them and went generic. The Lime Green roared in, in waves of kudzu-like char­treuse. I cut about 3 to 5 feet off the wall ev­ery cou­ple of weeks. But this generic jewel was de­ter­mined. In a Ju­manji-like per­for­mance, it trav­eled to the back fence 20 feet away wrap­ping it­self around aza­leas and flow­er­ing quince. It was on a mis­sion to de­vour, only stop­ping be­cause of the fence.

This is pre­cisely why Il­lu­sion Emer­ald Lace has won 92 awards over the years since its de­but. Proven Win­ners has 17 se­lec­tions, but this one I put on a pedestal and in the cat­e­gory of the be­haved sweet pota­toes. There are sev­eral more on the list that are very con­trol­lable and in fact would make ex­cel­lent hang­ing bas­ket plants.

This year, I have my Il­lu­sion Emer­ald Lace and have cre­ated vista points with Hot Co­ral SunPa­tiens, oth­ers with Lus­cious Royale Cosmo lan­tana and one of my fa­vorite part­ner­ships with the fiery orange of ColorBlaze Wicked Hot Coleus. I am also grow­ing the Il­lu­sion Mid­night Lace, which has deep dark pur­ple black leaves. You may also want to search out Il­lu­sion Gar­net Lace with soft rust col­ored fo­liage.

The Il­lu­sion group is deeply toothed, cre­at­ing as won­der­ful a con­trast in tex­ture as in color. Though they are much more com­pact in habit, I prom­ise they have just the right amount of land­scape vigor suit­able for drap­ing over walls, spilling out of bas­kets and con­tain­ers, and even to use as a ground­cover.

The or­na­men­tal sweet potato is the best an­nual ground cover to­day. Think about the cost for a 4- or 6-inch con­tainer and then con­sider the amount of growth or spread and you quickly re­al­ize no other plant can give you as much bang for your gar­den­ing pur­chase.

Like the tasty sweet potato grown for Sun­day dishes, this one too likes fer­tile, welldraine­d soil, and that’s es­pe­cially true in the land­scape. This usu­ally means amend­ing with 3 to 4 inches of or­ganic mat­ter. Con­tain­ers with pot­ting soil are like a dream come true.

To pre­pare soil in the land­scape, in­cor­po­rate 2 pounds of fer­til­izer per 100 square feet. I love a slow re­lease 12-6-6fer­til­izer, but it is no big­gie.

Use your fa­vorite blend with slow re­lease form of ni­tro­gen while pre­par­ing the bed. Plant your fa­vorite color of Il­lu­sion trans­plants at the same depth they are grow­ing in the con­tainer, spac­ing 12-18 inches apart, ex­pect­ing 10-12 inches in height with a spread of 30 to 36 inches.

Give sup­ple­men­tal wa­ter dur­ing the long grow­ing sea­son. Flea bee­tles are known to oc­ca­sion­ally make them unsightly, so treat with a rec­om­mended in­sec­ti­cide at the first sign of dam­age. As a pol­li­na­tor lover, I usu­ally will cut out any­thing that both­ers me, as the sweet potato grows back quickly. Prune any­time as needed to keep your sweet potato vines con­tained in their al­lot­ted space.

Cel­e­brate the fact that you no longer have to put up with va­ri­eties that mimic kudzu. No mat­ter where you live, you have plenty of time to en­joy a long sea­son of artis­tic cre­ation us­ing Il­lu­sion or­na­men­tal sweet pota­toes through­out the gar­den.

NORMAN WIN­TER TNS

Il­lu­sion Mid­night Lace or­na­men­tal sweet potato has a com­pact growth habit with deeply toothed leaves. Here it is com­bined with ColorBlaze Wicked Hot coleus.

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