The areas beneath trees and larger shrubs are always shady. This is a simple fact of gardening, and shade always limits the range of plants we can grow. When there are shady areas in a garden, some people take the easy route and leave the ground bare, or cover it with mulch. But most gardeners want green in their garden, not brown, so this solution leaves most of us feeling cold, and the attraction of our gardens is reduced. If you could have a plant that grows well in shade, is always green and healthy looking, is covered in beautiful blue flowers in spring, and needs no work – wouldn’t you want it? That plant exists – it is Bowles Periwinkle.
This plant produces thin stems that are several feet long, with pairs of glossy leaves all along them. Instead of growing upwards, these stems spread across the ground, making more stems, rooting and forming new plants as they go. Soon a solid mat of rich glossy green is covering what was once bare, brown earth. This dense mat keeps out weeds, although spring bulbs can still push upwards through it. The leaves are simple ovals, about 1 to 1.5 inches long, with a leathery texture, and a smooth, glossy, deep green surface. Bowles Periwinkle is more inclined to push new stems from the center of the plant, than to send out long stems into new areas, so it is not as invasive as many other varieties of this plant.
From early spring to early summer, your planting of Bowles Periwinkle will be covered with masses of brilliant-blue flowers, each about ¾ of an inch across. They have a flat surface, with five petals and a star-like throat in the middle, edged in white. The effect of these waves of blue, floating on an ocean of deep green, is charming, and a highlight of the spring period. Flowers are also produced in smaller numbers through summer and in fall, depending on weather and rainfall. The flowers disappear beneath the foliage as they fade, and no ‘clean-up’ is needed.
Bowles Periwinkle is an amazingly useful ground-cover plant is so many different garden locations. This hugely popular plant will grow where no other plants will. It can be used to carpet the ground beneath deciduous trees, and brighten up any woodland garden. It can be used to replace lawn, and it will take moderate foot traffic, so you can have green ground without the chore of mowing. It will grow at the top of retaining walls, and cascade charmingly over them. It can be used beneath larger shrubs, to cover the ground, and add richness and extra color to your garden design. Every garden has a place that needs Bowles Periwinkle, and yours does too.
This hardy plant grows from zone 4 to zone 9, so cold winter temperatures and deep snow do not bother it. With good snow cover it will even grow in zone 3. The foliage is evergreen, so all through winter it remains green and attractive, and usually emerges from beneath the snow in spring looking fresh and green. Even if some occasional damage is seen, new shoots will quickly emerge from the ground. This plant has no significant pests or diseases, and is usually not eaten by deer.
Bowles Periwinkle grows best in partial to full shade. It will also grow in sun if the soil is damp, but in shade it will tolerate some drought. In very dark locations, such as beneath evergreens, the growth may be a little thinner, but you will still have good results in all but the very darkest parts of your garden. It will grow in all kinds of soil, even poorly-drained ones, and alkaline ones too. It grows best in loamy soils that are often damp. To establish a carpet of green in your garden, space plants 2 feet apart. In a season or two they will grow together to form a continuous, weed-proof mat. If your plants spread into areas where you don’t want it, it is easy to trim back with a sharp spade, and remove the shallow-rooting unwanted growth. In fall, the leaves of the trees above will mostly fall inside the plants, reducing the raking or blowing you need to do. Do check in late fall, and remove any leaves that have completely buried the plants, as these will reduce growth.
Periwinkle, Vinca minor, is a native plant of Europe, found growing naturally all the way from Portugal to the Netherlands, and across the continent into Turkey. It grows on shady banks in woods, and near streams. It is a popular plant for gardens, and was probably brought to America by some of the early settlers, along with other favorite plants from back home. It is sometimes also called ‘creeping myrtle’, because of the similar glossy leaves. The wild plant has flowers of the color called ‘periwinkle blue’, but Bowles Periwinkle is a richer, darker blue, making a bolder showing in the garden.
E.A. Bowles was a remarkable British gardener from the first half of the 20th century, known particularly as an authority on Crocus bulbs. He had a keen eye for unusual plants, and selected this periwinkle for its unique flower color, dense growth, and more compact, less invasive habit. It is correctly called ‘Bowles’s Variety’, and also known as ‘La Grave’. Many other unique plants are named after this famous gardener. Our plants are produced for us from stock derived directly from his original plant, so you know you have the real deal. Avoid other cheaper periwinkle plants, which will be more invasive and have poorer flower color.
Periwinkle is an immensely popular ground cover plant, and gardeners ‘in the know’ appreciate the extra quality and unique color of Bowles Periwinkle. We know our plants will quickly be bought by our regular clients. To be sure you have the best periwinkle there is for your garden, order now, and avoid disappointment.