Annuals in Your Garden
With the cultivation and development of variations of annual flowers, the distinction between annuals and perennials may become confusing. Most annuals are planted in spring and bloom all summer long and some through fall. Annuals add vibrant colors and mixtures to your garden while providing seeds for the next year’s planting. These plants will generally die out at the first hard frost.
Several types of annuals are available to you, and a little knowledge of each is good to have.
First, there are Hardy Annuals. These tend to be best for planting in a cold climate because they can take a light frost and some freezing without dying. However, they will not tolerate heat and will likely die at the beginning of the hot summer weather.
Half-Hardy Annuals will become damaged by frost but can withstand periods of cold, damp days. Half-hardy annuals do not need warm soil or temperatures to germinate, so that you can plant them outside during the early spring months after the last frost. They may die down in mid-summer but come back and re-bloom in the fall.
Tender Annuals are very sensitive to cold temperatures and are easily damaged or killed by frosts. These types fair better when planted long after the danger of frost has passed. Seeds, however, can be germinated and grown indoors and then transplanted outside.
Cool Season Annuals will give you the best flowers in the spring and fall.
Warm Season Annuals will give you the best flower production when temperatures are in the upper 80’s and ’90s and warm summer nights.
Biennial Flowers, their growing cycles, are two growing seasons. The first season they are planted, they produce only rosette-shaped foliage ( the only disadvantage ) but flower the second growing season before they produce seeds and dry out.
Knowing these few facts about annuals should help you decide what you will plant for the spring, summer, and fall gardening season.
Colors For Your Annual Garden
Nothing will brighten up a flower garden-like color. Colors in a garden, when plants are planted in the right place, can be absolutely stunning. Whether it be a single color a mixture of many, colors have been known to have different effects on people, especially when planted in harmony.
Bright colors will always stand out and draw attention to your garden. Decide on your location, then decide on the layout for the particular area you have chosen.
Bright colors stand out more and appear to be closer than they are, while darker colors seem to be farther away, and nothing is better or brighter than white for an area that it will use at night. For some reason, reds seem to excite people, pink is just a sweet color, yellow is a fun color, white is neat and clean, green seems to ease eye strain, blue is ever so calming, while gray brings out your creativity.
When choosing your site, remember to ask yourself, will the site I selected meet the needs of the plants that I have selected? The meaning will there be adequate sunlight or shade if needed when temperatures rise, is the soil drainage adequate ( extremely important ). Keep in mind that too much sun will burn some plants, and too little sun will reduce the flowering of others.
The early morning sun is not as hot and damaging as the hotter, more intense afternoon sunlight. Taken into account shade loving flowering plants won’t do well, and all flowers do better when temperatures are mild. Many flowers stop blooming when temperatures get too high during the summer.
When planting, your soil should be rich with good moisture retention and drainage. Poor soil reduces plant growth and encourages root problems. Add organic matter such as pine bark chips or shredded yard wastes to your soil when planting. It will enhance the soil, be it sandy or clay. Before you plant, remember Sunlight, Soil and Temperature should play a part when choosing your garden site.
Color Your Garden Purple and Blue
Want to make your garden different – even just for a change? Why not consider the color purple**?
Bedazzled by Tibouchinas
Tibouchinas (old name Lasiandra) are time markers within your garden calendar. When they start to bloom, they are heralding the end of summer.
They provide an attractive background in any garden, then. As the end of summer and early autumn arrives, you will see them burst into a dazzling display of royal purple.
Some Recommended Varieties
- Tibouchina “Jazzie” – low growing – ideal to hedge. Flowers deep purple with white stamens in autumn, though can spot flowers throughout the year. Also called “Carol-Lyn.”
- Tibouchina “Noelene” this one goes through an unusual bi-color process. Opening white, they quickly change to a pinky mauve shade.
- Tibouchina “Alstonville” – an Australian-bred cultivar, it can be grown as a small tree, or if kept trimmed, you can enjoy it as a shrub. Normally, it will flower autumn into winter.
- Tibouchina “Granulosa” – if left unpruned, will mature into a small tree. Flowers are violet-purple and come out late summer and early autumn.
- Tibouchina “Jules” – Needs good drainage – doesn’t like wet feet. This is a dwarf that will grow to about a meter (one Yard)
Plant Location and Care
Tibouchinas are suitable for gardens, courtyards, balconies, and even sheltered roof gardens.
They prefer frost-free areas and a warm climate in a reasonably protected area. Soil – slightly acidic – if you have blue hydrangeas nearby – the soil pH is probably good enough.
Like all plants – good composting and mulching with mature manure will give you healthy plants.
Light pruning will keep them from getting straggly and give you more blooms.
A very similar plant is Brunfelsia (Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow) – they add a nice contrast in foliage with similarly shaped flowers. They are also fragrant.
** Purple in flowers may range from a pinky mauve to royal purple and all shades in between – so always choose your Tibouchinas when in bloom to get the color you want.
The Elusive Garden Blues
For many gardeners, cultivating blue flowering plants is both a challenge and a pinnacle in flower cultivation.
The main reason is that blue is difficult to find genetically, as no single pigment produces a true blue.
Of course, the holy grail among the elusive garden blues is probably the legendary and sought-after ‘blue rose.’ It even appears in myths from the Slavic regions right across to China.
It may have been ‘found’ by the Australian CSIRO and the research arm of the Japanese company Suntory – but is it really blue? It has involved the manipulation of the genes in what is beyond me to understand!
The problem with most ‘blue’ flowers is that it is not really blue – they range from varying shades of what we would call purple, lavender magenta or violet on a color wheel.
What does seem true is that those blue come from and need cold climates or at least cool nights in the summer.
Such as the Himalayan blue poppies, the Alpine forget-me-nots, and gentians.
Introducing blue-colored flowers into a garden gives it a more relaxing ‘feel’ as they are cool tones and just perfect for a summer garden.
Having said that, these can be grown in the temperate zones if they don’t get full afternoon sun, but still sufficient in the morning to keep them flowering.
Even though some ‘blue’ flowers if you look at them closely, you can see that they are really a very dark purple which the play of sunlight shows them as blue – the one that got me started on blue flowers was lobelia midnight blue – and it really belongs to the dark purple color range.
However, for all intents and purposes, ‘lobelia riviera blue’ is true sky blue – regardless of its pigments, genes, or whatever – to the eye, it is a real blue!
Nurseries and flower cultivators have often called some flowers ‘blue’ to target the market which seeks blue flowers.
The best example of this is the blue agapanthus – which to my mind and eye is not a blue – but belongs to the lavender/mauve range.
Other flowers that can produce blooms that are blue or close to it:
- Corn Flowers
- Clematis (Traveler’s Joy)
- Pansies and violas
- Delphiniums and larkspur
- Aquilegia (columbines)
- Johnson blue geranium
- Gentians (septemfida) (difficult, but the spectacular color in trumpet-shaped blooms)
- Blue hydrangeas (you have to add an aluminum-based fertilizer to change from pink to blue)
Planting ‘blue’ flowers amongst lavender or mauve roses are subtly beautiful, or it can provide a great contrast with red or yellow roses.
My recommendations for the elusive garden blues are the poppy, lobelias, gentians, forget-me-nots, hydrangeas, and delphiniums. If you plant the others next to them, you will see how ‘blue’ they are …. or not!