Lantana is a bright, cheerful annual in Pennsylvania. Woody stems and sturdy leaves give one the impression that it could be a native of the Northeast, and then it flowers.
Clusters of small flowers, in exotic jewel- like colors, unmistakably mark Lantana as a tropical transplant, one that nursery centers have been introducing for several years now. Pinks, yellows, oranges, even lavender, all look battery operated.
Lantana is so bright, so very very tropical, that it should just about come with a sign, "Hi! I don't belong here!" Something about it hardly every blends well in the planters I often see. It has the perfect growth habit, low but not trailing as much as filling in those mid-height gaps, dark leaves that provide a great backdrop to its own flowers as well as its other neighbors in the pot. But it is so startlingly bright that it often seems out of place, a parrot that landed among sweet potato vine or ivy, grasses and begonias and impatiens- very pretty, but not quite right.
And yet, I love it! I love its brightness, its tropical-ness. Summers here are hot hot hot- 90's all this week and it's only the end of June- and Lantana thrives in this heat. You can gorge yourself on color. It feels like we're in the tropics, it looks like we're in the tropics... hey, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.
Lantana seems like a fad plant that hasn't found its place yet. Over time, nurseries will figure out how to showcase this summer beauty, instead of sticking it where it doesn't belong. I liken it to shea butter! (I know, but stick with me here.)
Years ago, it was a treat to find a product with shea butter- thick and rich and nourishing and special. Then, shea was 'discovered' and made the new big thing, and shea butter was everywhere, all over the place, in all sorts of weird products. I can't really see the point of putting it in, say, dishsoap. Pretty much defeats the purpose and cancels each other out, don't you think? But now, the craze has calmed down and while shea is here to stay, it's popular in uses that honor its own properties instead of in everything that wanted to use its name to move sales.
I think Lantana will also find its niche, especially as more tropicals become easier to grow in this area and become available for experimentation in our pots and planters. For now, I smile at the flash of bright, and try not to look too closely.
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