Until I began working on the Bridge of Flowers committee some years ago, I never realized how important annuals are to having a really flowery garden all season. Those of us who have perennial gardens accept that most perennials are in bloom for only three weeks or so. With deadheading and pruning we might be able to get a second flush of bloom. With careful planning, we can create a design that will always have something in bloom, but there may not be a lot in bloom at any one moment.
I was talking to a friend recently and she said she had been planting lots of potted baby annuals and was off to see what else might still be available at the Farmer’s Coop. She felt she needed all the annuals she could get because she likes constant bloom in her garden, but she also likes to pick lots of colorful flowers for bouquets in her house and to give to her friends.
Annuals are in evidence everywhere in the spring as local merchants put out big pots of bright geraniums, or the greatly improved petunias that now come in wild colors and no longer need deadheading. My neighbors have been known to hang pots of graceful annuals. In my youth I admired hanging pots of begonias which I thought were beautiful and exotic. I never dared to think of trying to plant such a pot myself. Nowadays frames for hanging pots and fibrous mats for holding soil in the pot are abundant in every garden center. There are also new varieties like Proven Winner Nonstop Mocca begonias with lovely double blossoms that look so much like roses in an array of colors. You can plant them in hanging baskets or in pots for the patio.
In my own garden I often plant petunias in containers. Today’s petunias are not the petunias I picked in my grandmother’s garden. Modern petunias going by the name Wave Petunias and Supertunias can provide a full season of lush bloom in many colors. The difference between these two varieties is that the Wave type will spread and cover an area of soil densely and cut down on weeds. Supertunias work better in a hanging basket because they produce long vines.
Both Wave and Supertunias need to be fertilized every week or two. This is vital to keep them both blooming, and all potted plants need to be watered every day, and perhaps more often if there is a heat wave.
Who doesn’t love a daisy? There are many daisy-like flowers. One of the most popular right now is the family of osteospurmums. A lot of name for a simple flower in some outrageous colors. They can be grown in the soil or in pots. Regular watering is essential for annuals even if they are planted in the ground.
Once I was visiting the stunning Wave Hill gardens overlooking the Hudson River in the Bronx, New York. Many flowers were familiar and beautiful, and suddenly I came upon this astonishing plant with deep red dripping blooms. I had never seen anything like it. It was a surprise, but when I located its name tag I was further astounded – love lies bleeding. It was so shockingly apt – and there in an elegant and romantic flower bed. It took me some years before I could think about including it in my own garden, but I do now appreciate its unusual beauty. Love lies bleeding is an amaranth and it has larger cousins that are edible grains.
Sweet peas are not edible, but this is a lovely annual vine that climbs with many forms and colors. Renee’s Garden offers 27 sweet pea varieties that include windowbox sweet peas that are happy in a container.
Since the point of annuals is that they bloom into the fall I must mention dahlias. The Bridge of Flowers includes many dahlias in its plantings that bloom from summer until frost. There are any number of colors and flower forms but they are all gorgeous. Dahlias grow from a tuber that can be potted up and started in the spring, giving them a headstart for when they can be planted in the ground. For every tuber planted, the gardener will harvest four or five new tubers when frost has killed the plant for the year. They can be stored for planting the following spring.
A visit to the Bridge of Flowers will give you a sampling of the varieties available.
I love cosmos with its airy foliage and tender colors of pink and white. Even just a six pack of seedlings will ultimately take over a large space in the garden and make a substantial display, even when they are routinely snipped to make a dining table bouquet.
Another favorite of mine is the very familiar zinnia, brilliant and bold colors, or paler shades. Renee’s Garden even offers a bright white zinnia, and the Green Envy zinnia that is a stunning chartreuse color and a great addition to any bouquet. Florists are always looking for green flowers that can set off the bright colors in an arrangement.
Though annuals will only last for one season, to get the lush growth you are looking for they should be planted with as much care as any perennial. The planting bed should be prepared and enriched by adding compost. If you are just planting individual plants to fill a space it is good practice to add a scoop of compost to that planting hole. Regular watering is important when plants are getting started. All potted annuals will need daily watering, and periodic fertilizing to keep blooming well.
Between the Rows June 24, 2017