Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
April, 2004
Regional Report

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Pansies and violas are perfect annuals to plant during the cool weather of spring.

An Annual Affair

After a few years of gardening, people are wont to say, "Oh, I get tired of planting annuals every year. I want to grow perennials because you only plant them once." At that point, they need to be gently reminded that although perennials may not need planting every year, they do require regular trimming, pinching, staking, and dividing. Plus, the vast majority of perennials bloom for only several weeks during the summer.

Not that I don't have a passion for perennials, but annuals, whether alone or in among perennials, are generally easy to grow, with most providing brilliant color all season long. Best of all, you get to start with a fresh palette every year.

As you plan for this year's garden, open your mind to the many wondrous annuals that can enhance your landscape. Don't snub the tried-and-true ones, like petunias and impatiens, and experiment with some of the lesser-known ones, such as angelonia and wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri).

Since it's still a few weeks before the last frost date for our region, now is the perfect time to make an assessment of your yard for places where annuals would make attractive additions. Make notes about heights and colors you'd like, so when you visit garden centers you'll be able to make good choices about the annuals that are best suited for your various garden areas.

Annuals for Different Areas and Uses
Even in a small yard, there are often a number of microclimates, such as areas with full sun and dry, poor soil; full sun and rich, loamy soil; dry or moist shade. Because annuals run the gamut of shapes, sizes, and colors, you can use them for edgings, cut flowers, hanging baskets as well as the front, middle, or back of beds and borders. Here are some annuals that would be suitable for some of these varying situations.

Shade: Wax begonia (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum), coleus (coleus hybrids), collinsia (Collinsia spp.), Persian violet (Exacum affine), fuchsia (fuchsia species and cultivars), impatiens (Impatiens wallerana), and wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri).

Sunny, Dry Conditions with Poor Soil: Love-lies-bleeding
(Amaranthus caudatus), cockscomb (Celosia cristata), cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), spider flower (Cleome hasslerana), four-o'-clock (Mirabilis jalapa), moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora), nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), calliopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria), and beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens).

Moist, Cool Conditions: Bugloss (Anchusa capensis), pink (Dianthus spp.), summer cypress (Kochia scoparia), sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus), monkey flower (Mimulus spp.), baby blue eyes (Nemesia strumosa), wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri), pansy and viola (Viola spp.), Livingstone daisy (Dorotheanus belledformis), and blue lace flower (Trachymene coreulea).

Cut Flowers: Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), China aster (Callistephus chinensis), cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), calliopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria), cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus), blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchela), pincushions (Scabiosa atropurpurea), marigold (Tagetes spp.), zinnia (Zinnia spp.), toadflax (Linaria spp.), and love-in-a-mist (Nigella damacena).

Edging: Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), pimpernel (Anagallis monelli linifolia), ornamental pepper (Capsicum anuum), sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), dwarf sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens), dwarf marigold (Tagetes spp.).

Don't Forget Vines
One of the best additions you can make to a garden area is to add a vertical element. A very easy method is to add a free-standing obelisk or tuteur planted with vines. There are a number of annual vines that add dynamic impact to a garden, whether planted around a free-standing element, a trellis placed against a wall, or an arbor over a garden path.

Morning glories are the obvious first choice, with a number of varieties in different shades of blue, pink, and white. Some other options include cup-and-saucer vine (Cobaea scandens), hyacinth bean (Dolichos lablab), moonflower (Ipomoea alba), star glory (Mina lobata), scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus), canary bird vine (Tropaeolum perigrinum), and snail vine (Vigna caracalla).

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