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Applause for Annuals

Geraniums

Geraniums come in many colors. These were on display at the Lyman Greenhouse

Every year new flowers show up in the catalogs and garden centers. These new plants may get us thinking about ways we can design our plantings, help us find flowers that will thrive in challenging situations, or help support pollinators. I will list a few of these new annual flower varieties that I found particularly appealing.

The first place I check to see what is new is the All America Plant Selections website. Many of us have noticed the little red, white and blue logo on some seed packets denoting that they are AAS Selections, plant varieties that have been tested in gardens across the country to find flowers and vegetables that can be grown in home gardens successfully.

Geraniums are a common and beloved flower that blooms in pots and hanging baskets all summer long. A new geranium (or more properly pelargonium) varieties is Brocade Fire. The AAS has named this mounding plant with its splotched lime green foliage and unusual bright orange blossoms a national winner which means it will thrive anywhere in the US. Geraniums love the sun but Brocade Fire is tolerant of less than full sun and promises to take a fair amount of shade. Although I always think of geraniums as container plants, they can certainly be planted in the ground where you can worry less about watering. The secret to growing container plants successfully is a good schedule of generous watering and fertilizing. You will still need to remove spent blossoms of the geraniums.

The Salvia Summer Jewel Series has been winning the AAS award every time the series comes out with a new color, Summer Jewel Red in 2011, Summer Jewel Pink in 2012, Summer Jewel White in 2015 and now Summer Jewel Lavender. What all of these Summer Jewels have in common is their appeal to bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. They are about 20 inches high and need full sun. Perfect for bedding borders, or containers.

Cosmos

Cosmos come in shades of pink as well as white

Cosmos are one of those wonderful annuals that will bloom all summer long and into the fall requiring no particular care. There are several varieties in shades of pink and white with various petal forms. This year a new cosmos is Casanova, a dwarf that blooms in white, red, pink and pale violet with very compact growth for a very long season from spring to frost. Another new dwarf cosmos is Xanthos which is unusual because of its creamy yellow color. Both of these varieties will not be more than about 20 inches tall, are happy in containers, and like all cosmos will attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

Gardeners who have shade will be very familiar with wild impatiens with white blossoms or shades of pink and white. Now there is the Sunpatiens , a cross between the wild New Guinea impatiens and the wild variety. Sunpatiens do not need shade and thrive in full sun, even in hot and humid climates. They come in three growth habits: Compact which is 18-24 inches tall; Spreading with a mounding habit about 30 inches tall; and Vigorous which has a vase shape up to about 3 feet tall. The new Sunpatiens Spreading Clear Orange has striking color for three season bloom in all kinds of weather until frost. They have good resistance to downy mildew which has recently been a problem for the more familiar pastel impatiens.

I love morning glories like the classic Heavenly Blue. My old Grandpa Ott with its deep purple blossoms self seeded itself for years and gladdened my heart well into the fall. This year Ipomea Split Second has come on the scene with her “peony-like blooms” of a heavenly pink and I don’t think I can resist.  I never even knew there were double morning glories. I am planning to order my seeds right away because these luscious flowers are expected to be very popular.

Split Second has the vining habit you expect, climbing up to six feet and while it welcomes a good well drained soil, it can tolerate some drought and some damp.

Its name, Split Second, is a hint that this is a very early blooming variety. It can be planted in a container or hanging basket, as well as in the ground. Wherever you plant it be sure to give it sufficient support.

Begonias

Begonias growing is part shade.

Once I was at a garden writers conference at the end of the summer in California and we got to see some of the new plants that would be available in the spring. Everyone was asking “What is that flower cascading over the hanging pots?” It was Begonia boliviensis with graceful blossom-laden stems overflowing their pots. These bell-like begonia blossoms are quite simple, unlike lush tuberous begonias or even the delicate shade-loving wax begonias. Bees and hummingbirds love it. It will bloom all summer and into the fall, but a touch of frost means the end.

Although begonias generally prefer shade, B. boliviensis San Francisco is a great plant for hanging baskets because it is more tolerant of sunnier spots, although some shade would be ideal. Hanging on my front porch perhaps?

Annuals are an important element in almost every garden providing masses of color over a long season. Many of these no longer need constant deadheading to keep blooming.