In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
Dianthus grows neat green clumps that burst into bloom regularly in shades from white and pink to fuchsia and red.
Resilient is a word we hear spoken frequently to describe the spirit of our region, and it is well deserved. So is the reputation of our "perennial annuals." Our climate is theoretically ideal for many annual plants to grow nonstop, so long as we meet their basic needs. But, like people, there are plants that come to visit, and others that make themselves at home here permanently.
We know when we plant diascia or bacopas, they'll be lovely for a few months, but eventually the heat, humidity, cold spell, or heavy, wet soil will get them. The reliable, resilient annuals keep on going, blooming two or three times a year, often for several years. The list of survivors has three champions: dianthus, begonias, and petunias. Fill a pot or morning sun bed with them, water weekly, and enjoy them for months.
Any native soil in our region can become a good garden soil when you add organic matter to it. Whether heavy soil or sand, dig a shovel's depth, then top it with 4 inches of compost, leaf mold, ground bark, or stable shavings (if well aged). A combination of materials is preferable, because it creates better soil texture and a more hospitable long-term home for plant roots. Apply a dusting of lime to the soil, and a general purpose flower garden fertilizer in granular form. The long-lived annuals will need occasional fertilizer and deadheading to maintain their leaves and keep the flowers coming.
Picking the Hits
Dianthus 'Telstar' has a great reputation for resilience, as does Begonia 'Dragon Wing' and most any of the 'Wave' petunias. But their relatives, including new introductions, hold great potential and deserve a try. The All America Selections winners for 2006 include a promising dianthus named 'Supra'. And, of course, the Wave series continues to add colors and plant sizes to the range of these very dependable plants.
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