In the Garden:
Cascading pink petunias and blue calibrachoa make a beautiful container when planted together.
My Best Annuals
I love annual flowers. With such a short growing season here in northern Vermont, I appreciate the great splash of color annual flowers give and their ability to keep blooming right until frost. Over the years, I have tucked more and more annual flowers into my vegetable and perennial gardens and find myself using more of them in containers as well.
Great Sun-loving Annuals
I have a raised bed garden at my office that sits in an asphalt parking lot. It gets lots of sun and heat in the summer. Over the years, I've experimented with different annual flowers in this bed. The low-growing, creeping wave petunias such as 'Purple Wave', 'Misty Lilac Wave', and 'Pink Wave' grow with abandon in this bed. Each plant spreads 2 to 3 feet in diameter, stays low growing, and flowers all summer. The best part is they don't need deadheading and recover quickly after a rain.
Some other great sun-loving annuals are portulaca, cosmos, cleome, and datura. They all grow strongly in this bed with little care. The portulaca and datura actually self sow each year, so I never have to replant them in spring. Even the California poppies I planted a few years ago come back faithfully to flower in early summer, set seed, and flower again in early fall.
At home I have more shade than sun in my gardens. I've found the traditional impatiens and begonias grow fine, but there are a few more unusual annuals I also like to grow. Torenia is a low-growing shade annual that produces trumpet-like flowers in colors ranging from white to pink, red, and lavender. Monkey flower (Mimulus lutea) grows to about 8 inches tall, likes part shade, and produces yellows, red, orange, and cream-colored flowers that look almost orchid-like.
Some Container Favorites
In the containers on my deck, I like to try some of the newest annual selections. Scaevola or fall flower is a cascading annual with blue flowers that looks great hanging off the edge of baskets or containers. Calibrachoa or million bells is another cascading annual that features red, white, or blue small petunia-like flowers. For an annual with height, I like many of the new coleus varieties. These plants aren't know for their flowers, but for their interestingly colored foliage. Many new varieties have leaves with splashes of red, yellow, pink, and green on their leaves. They grow well in sun or part shade.
To keep annuals blooming all summer, water them well if rains aren't coming consistently, fertilize every few weeks with a diluted solution of a liquid fertilizer (or use time-release pellets such as Osmocote), and pinch them back if they get rangy. Pinching back annuals in mid-summer may sacrifice some flowers, but in a few weeks the plants will put on new growth and will flower up a storm for the rest of summer.
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