Annuals: Summer Romance Adds Spice to LTR With Perennials

January 26, 2019

There was a time when I tried to eliminate annuals from my garden. The challenge of creating a continuously-blooming perennial border was captivating. Now I save some space for annuals, hating to miss out on the endless variation they add to my borders. Annuals, like shipboard romances, require no long-term commitment.


​​Last year, the lure of sweet monochromatic pinks called to me. These pretty snaps, petunias, vinca, and portulaca certainly blended perfectly with my roses, but by August I was ready for a spicier look. This year they will be replaced with a fiesta bright mix of snaps, zinnias, intensely-colored portulaca and strawberry fields globe amaranth. By September, I’ll probably be longing for my favorite contrasting combination of yellow and purple with a dash of red to keep it from getting dull.


Plan in hand, I spend January studying seed catalogs for best selections. By starting my own seeds, I am not dependent on the choices on offer in garden centers. With a little luck, I economically get what I want.

​“Damping off” is a lethal fungal disease that strikes seedlings without warning. If it strikes mine, I fall back on directly seeding some selections and purchasing substitutes. 


Every year, I succumb to the siren call of the garden center. There I indulge in buying plants for my containers. In the quest for the showiest, longest-lasting annuals, I purchase an assortment of known and new selections. I could fall back on last year’s successes, but that would end the thrill of the hunt.


Plant hybridizers introduce new colors and improved and novel cultivars every year. Some of these are not around very long while others become commonplace. I’ve come to enjoy trying something new along with familiar favorites. It is a way to experiment with fresh looks while expanding my knowledge.


Let’s face it: Perennials are a long-term commitment, providing material for repetition and balance as the border develops over the years. Although one can certainly have very different color schemes for each period of bloom, the visual diet can become a bit boring. Annuals add a distinctive zest. And if the scheme does not work out to your satisfaction, it can be completely fresh and new next year. 


If master gardener Ann Bartlett indulges in the occasional dalliance with annuals in the ornamental beds around her home, she is anyway ornamental about it; and who is The Planet to cast the first stone?

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