Annual Decisions

We are quickly approaching the last frost date and it is time to plan your containers and flower beds for another season of color and enjoyment. Have you been planting the same annuals for the last ten years? Did you lose a tree in one of our storms in the past year, and the new sunlight just won’t allow the old standbys? Are you trying to give your house that extra curb appeal to get it sold quickly? If so, a greater knowledge of annuals can allow for a summer of compliments.

There are multiple ways to plant annuals, depending on the desired look. When deciding what annuals to plant, consider the location, the growing conditions and the colors surrounding the area. For example, if the house is white consider bright colors that will stand out against the white backdrop. The determining factor in what to plant should be the amount of sunlight the area receives. Try to pay attention to your yard for an entire day. Many people misjudge their actual sunlight, by describing the sunlight when they are home rather than including the entire day. If you are not sure on the amount of sunlight, consider plants that do well in a variety of conditions such as Impatiens, Wax Leaf Begonias, or Annual Salvia. 

Tired of planting the same beds with strictly petunias or impatiens year after year? Consider mixing it up with several varieties of to create a bed of interest that will stop people in their tracks. A stunning combination of white Profusion Zinnias, White Nancy, and Blue Salvia, with purple or pink Petunias will provide a summer of blooms. Cosmos seeds tossed into a bed of white Alyssum, blue Lobelia, and Impatiens can create a natural looking bed that has a fair chance of reseeding for next year.  When in doubt grab a magazine or take a walk to find ideas or combinations you like. Even the best landscapers have to get their ideas from somewhere.

When planning your containers, a commonly used phrase is “spill, fill, and thrill”. “Spill” would include border plantings including Sweet Potato Vine, Vinca, Ivy, and trailing Petunias. Lesser known varieties that can add interest and color include Nemesia, Bacopa, Bidens, and Scaveola. Nemesia is similar to Snapdragon in growing preferences, but is being introduced in new colors almost every season. “Fill”, is an area of a container that many people often overlook but can carry your container through the season as blooms come and go. Some of the most popular plants that can be excellent fillers include Coleus, Impatiens, and Fountain grasses. Coleus in particular can offer some “fill” in any growing condition and about any color imaginable. Gaining in popularity but often forgotten in containers are perennials. Excellent perennial fillers include Heuchera, Sedum, and Gaura. For an added bonus, get these plants into the ground at summers end and enjoy them for years to come. Finally the “thrill”, draws the eye to the container. Plants for the thrill can include Geraniums, Tuberous Begonias, New Guinea Impatiens, or Osteospermum. The “thrill” can also be achieved with large flowering annuals such as Zinnias or Marigolds.

Edible container plantings can offer the traditional beauty of annual plantings, with the added value of being able to harvest the plants. Nasturtium has edible foliage and flowers and is low maintenance when established. Lavender with numerous varieties available can flower for a long time and add a pleasant fragrance. Sage can easily be used in the “fill” category and is available in multiple colors. Using Chives can add height to your container and could be considered an edible version of the spike. Borage, a lesser known herb offers beautiful blue flowers that are delicious and give dinner guests something to talk about. Also, try creating your own “Pasta pot.” Simply choose a tomato well suited for a container and surround it with your favorite herbs for the pasta sauce. This is a great staple for homes short on space.

When it is time to plant, in the ground or in containers, always make sure you have a quality soil that drains well and has sufficient nutrient for your plants to thrive. Amend old soil with compost and fertilize at the time of planting. Remember, especially in containers, annuals perform best when fertilized regularly. Many options for fertilizing exist, time release fertilizers allow for nutrients to absorbed at a consistent rate but require fewer applications. Water soluble fertilizers provide plants with higher levels of nutrition but need to be applied frequently.

If you still feel overwhelmed, visit a garden center on a rainy day. The staff is likely to have more time to spend with you and can offer suggestions based on your needs or desires.       

Paul Bilyk

Owner, Lakewood Garden Center

Read More on Home & Garden
Volume 7, Issue 9, Posted 11:54 AM, 05.03.2011