VINCA – periwinkle

In the garden a few species of this small group of plants are grown for their ability to provide dense ground cover and for their delicate flowers. The ones cultivated are evergreen, invasive and hardy.

Suitable site and soil. Any ordinary well-drained soil in a partially shaded spot will do.

Cultivation and care. Plant out between early autumn and early spring. Generally easy to grow.

Propagation. Can be divided from autumn to early spring and will also increase themselves by layering.

Recommended varieties. V. major (great periwinkle) is a robust, spreading, evergreen hardy sub-shrub with glossy oval dark-green leaves; it grows up to 45cm – 18in with a spread of about 1.2m – 4ft or more. It produces blue or blue-purple flowers about 2.5cm – 1 inch across from mid spring to early summer. The variety V. major ‘Variegata’ has cream-edged leaves. Hardy V. minor (lesser periwinkle) is smaller at about 10cm – 4in but with a similar spread to V. major. It too has glossy dark-green leaves, with its blue flowers appearing from early spring to mid summer. Good varieties are V. minor ‘Aureovar-iegata’ with yellow in the leaves and V.m. ‘Burgundy’ with wine-red flowers. V. difformis, another spreading sub-shrub, usually dies back in winter, but grows to 30cm – 12in high by 90cm – 3ft or more across.

Pests and diseases. Usually pest free but V. major may suffer fungal attack.

PERIWINKLE ON THE LOOSE

V. major will grow almost anywhere, even in shade, and it is especially useful in a wild garden. To use as ground cover, space plants about 60cm – 2ft apart for a really colourful spread.

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