Annuals are a group of plants that seems to fall in and out of favor. Some years I grow several and other times I decide that I don’t want to bother with anything that is going to last for just the season. When I get really tired I think that maybe I’ll just grow trees and shrubs so I don’t really need to mess with any of those pesky plants out in the garden. This fortunately is a mood that doesn’t last long.
I do like to garden and I do like to see something blooming most of the time. This is where annuals come in handy. Annuals by definition are plants that will complete their life cycle from planting through flowering, seed formation, and death in one single season. Annual flowers bloom quickly so are liked for that instant color. They may have a bloom span that lasts from a month to the whole season. This is much longer than most perennials, shrubs or trees.
Some annuals will also self sow, so once you plant them they will keep coming up in the same general area. 4’oclocks and poppies are a couple that are good for this reason. They may also be easy to transplant from one spot to another. Many are easy to start from seed.We do start several in our greenhouses about the end of February or early March so by May they are big enough to put out into the garden. If you don’t have the luxury of a greenhouse a window sill will also work just fine.
Now there may also be a number of non-hardy perennials and shrubs that are considered annuals for us because they won’t survive the winter. They may be fairly inexpensive so can be used the same as true annuals. Some of these for us are pelargonium (the non-hardy geranium that is so popular), fuchsia (those big baskets) and abutilons, which we grow as container plants.
We have tried to plant the garden with trees, shrubs and perennials so there is some special interest year-round and have been fairly successful at that. The annuals just boost the lushness, making many of the garden beds more dramatic throughout the season.
To keep things shaken up we try not to plant the same annuals year after year. Since they are annuals and do die that frees up space to try something different the next year. After all isn’t that part of the fun of gardening, experimenting? This year we are growing pelargoniums, petunias, cosmos, asters, impatiens, coleus, nasturtium and cuphea. Last year we grew begonias, portulaca, nicotiana, marigolds and rudbeckias. There are many more that I’m not mentioning that would work as well.
One group I have not mentioned are vegetables. Most are annuals and many are ornamental and can be easily be incorporated into the garden. I plant Rainbow Swiss Chard for its foliage color and Red Runner Beans for its cool flowers. You have the added benefit of being able to eat them.
I think many of the annuals I grow harken back to my childhood. Growing up in North Dakota and having a short growing season, they were always very satisfying. Many still remind me of those days and feel just as rewarding.