Vinca minor is, as my father used to say, neat but not gaudy. Sometimes known as periwinkle or myrtle, this creeping perennial appears everywhere. Like a good soldier, vinca hits the ground running, and does its task efficiently, even under adverse conditions. Parts of the suburbs are virtually upholstered with it, but you can even find this undemanding evergreen stalwart keeping vigil among neglected monuments in long-abandoned cemeteries.
In fact, vinca is so totally reliable that it is usually damned with faint praise. People take its handsome, 1-inch oval leaves and purplish-blue flowers for granted. This may be partly because it blooms in the spring, and showier blossoms such as tulips, daffodils and giant blowsy hyacinths steal its thunder. In the great horticultural beauty pageant, vinca might win “Miss Congeniality,” but is neither statuesque nor voluptuous enough to walk away with the crown.
Novice gardeners trying to find something to grow in the shade are often directed to seek out vinca in that lonely section at the rear of the garden center where groundcovers dwell. If they are not careful, they stop before they get there and end up buying a flat or two of annual vinca (Catharanthus rosea, also known as Madagascar rosy periwinkle). Annual vinca is lovely, with dark green shiny leaves and diminutive flowers ranging from white to rose to purple. It is an excellent bedding plant in its own right, but, unlike Vinca minor, it grows best in full sun. Annual vinca may not perish under the great oak in the front yard, but it will probably languish in flowerless distress.
Our ancestors, who decorated their yards and cemetery plots with vinca grown from cuttings, had fewer sources of beauty and probably appreciated theRead more on backyardgardener.com