Helpful tips for annual gardeners

July 29, 2015

Looking to plant your garden only once a year? Here are some words of wisdom for anybody who plants annuals.

Helpful tips for annual gardeners

Keep your eye open for bargains

Young plants in six- or eight-packs of the same variety are often available at such good prices that they're a very wise choice. The best values are seedlings that are well rooted but not yet in bloom. Late in the season, beware of starved, dried-up leftovers, even if they are free.

Be wary of "grab bags”

Many seed stores sell small packets of seed mixes described as "fragrant," "mixed colours," "for shady areas" or "drought tolerant." Too often, the packages lack the specific information you need. Unless you want a garden of surprises, buy individual seed packets labelled with advice on plant size, spacing and care.

Plot out your planting

Make allowance for the height and proper spacing of each type of annual and put your plan on paper. Colour it in with crayons or coloured pencils to get an idea of the overall effect.

Avoid planting in straight lines or singles

Use staggered rows, trace curves in different directions or simply plant in clumps or groups. Single annuals often get lost, but groups of three to five plants will grow into a colourful mound.

Play with sizes and types

Provide height by placing tall flowers behind shorter ones and get great contrast by choosing some annuals that have daisy-like blossoms (zinnias) and others with upright spikes (salvias).

Get double use from colour bowls

Many garden centres sell pots and planters already planted with painterly combinations of annuals. Enjoy a pre-planted combo as a living work of art for a few weeks, then pinch the plants back, cut the roots apart with a sharp knife and transplant them in your garden. Within three weeks, they should be growing vigorously again and they will bloom stronger and longer than they would if you left them in their original pot. Clean the pot and replant it with a new group of flowers.

Simplify to reduce maintenance

Massing a single colour or a simple combination of two colours will create an elegant, unified effect suitable for entryways and window boxes. Sticking with only two or three types of annuals simplifies maintenance, too, because you can plant, groom and feed many plants at the same time.

Play it soft, play it loud

Pastel pinks, lavenders and yellows show up best in early morning light, evening light or partial shade, but they tend to wash out in strong sun. Vivid reds and oranges hold up in bright light and are easily seen from a distance.

Try some colourful foliage

More and more annuals are available with vibrantly coloured foliage that's perfect to mix and match with beautiful bloomers. Look for ornamental sweet potato vine, Persian shield, helichrysum and other annuals with eye-catching leaves.

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