What is that thing you are planting? Will it live next year?
Many beginning gardeners are confused when it comes to plants and their survival. My mailbag is full of letters from readers wondering if they caused their plants to go to the big compost heap in the sky. Sometimes, it is just the plant's nature.
Here are two definitions that will help: An annual is a plant that completes its lifecycle in one year. Perennials live for three or more years in your garden.
Some plants won't come back each year just because they have finished their lifecycle. Others don't come back because our winter is too cold for them. Others can handle the cold and will come back year after year.
With the basic definitions out of the way, you can get your shovel out and do some planting.
It is always a good investment to buy perennials each year. You get more for your money because they will multiply over the years, so you can spread them around your yard or give some away.
Since they work hard to survive our entire season and make it back the next year, they do have some drawbacks. You won't see many perennials flowering all summer. They tend to have foliage on longer than the flower, so pick perennials that have nice-looking leaves and stems, too.
Also, try to choose perennials that will flower at different times of the year so your garden will always be flowering. This can be tough and you will need a map. I like to keep a record of the plants around my yard, when they bloom, and color combinations.
It is also a good idea to take a picture of your yard each season so you can look back and see where you will need to add more color for next season.
Perennials and flowering shrubs are the backbone of any garden. Low-maintenance growers like day lilies, coreopsis, purple coneflower, Russian sage, Sedum Autumn Joy, and yarrow are mainstays in most sunny perennial borders. Try vinca, ajuga, bleeding heart, primrose, and hosta in the shade.
You might think it is a waste of money to buy plants that will just die each year. Not so. Annuals flower longer and give you big drifts of color in your landscape. Growers sell them in packs on purpose because they look great when planted in groups.
Don't forget about the impact a beautiful hanging basket or decorative pot can make on your front porch. Annuals are perfect for this mini garden.
We love their color and their to-go containers, but some annuals can be a bit high maintenance. They need to be watered and fed often to hold their robust form. Some, like petunias, need to have their old blossoms plucked off so the plant will keep blooming. This is called deadheading. You can consider it tedious work or a soothing exercise after a long, hard day at the office. Either way, it has to be done.
I have fallen in love with annuals in the past few years. Maybe it is because I have the structure of perennials and shrubs in place, so I can have fun with pots on the deck and lines of color along the driveway.
Since I have a lot of shade, I like to plant Busy Lizzie impatiens and fuss with Canterbury bells. Tuberous begonias and pansies can fill a pot or basket in a shady corner. Sunny annuals like cleome, so tall and elegant, make a charming statement when planted in large groups. Gerbera daisies really pop with color, and moss roses tucked in your rock garden will be a bright surprise among the cold stones.
You can't go wrong with annuals like nasturtium, New Guinea impatiens, coleus, and the bright vine of the licorice plant. These annuals will thrive in just about any light and give you some flowers to snip and enjoy inside.
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