Sunday Opinion:The Annual Contribution


I have in store a series of posts for next week on annual plantings, as now is the time to be planning for this. It is my opinion that the contribution annuals make to a landscape and a life, is underrated; see the following. 


 Annual plants, meaning all and any plant not hardy in my zone,  are the organizing metaphor of my professional and personal life for 6 weeks in early summer; this I like.  I stubbornly resist planting annuals until I am convinced the soil and air is warm enough, and then I live eat and breathe them until all my clients are planted.  The whole season drives me crazy, and makes me happy. I shop as many growers and markets as I can.  I have favorite plants custom grown. In a timely year, I am replanting my clients who have had spring plantings in April, from July 1 until July 15.  Looking at the schedule of the full moons to come, I think the warm weather will come early-so I may start planting May 15-20.


 One year, I did not start planting annuals for my clients until June 1.  I spent more time talking about proper timing, and fending off indignant phone calls, than I did planting, but mostly my clients understand that a proper job done at the beginning helps make for season long success. 


 You do need to know up front, that I value annual plants equally to other any other plant in my landscape. In some cases, I value them more than “perennial” plants; here’s why.


 My overall landscape is composed of trees, evergreens, shrubs and perennials that provide substance, volume, partnership, and companionship, in tandem with the seasons, and the weather. The relationship of one plant to another, interests me more than a plant itself. The relationship of the landscape to the weather, and the season interests me even more.  I am definitely not a plant collector; I am a picture maker.

My most favorite thing about annuals is that I commit to them for one season only; I like having an element in my landscape that I can look forward to changing every year.  One year I might fancy hot colors and tropical textures-the next I might organize my whole terrace planting around a pale pink fuchsia on standard whose beauty I cannot get out of my mind. Some things I try, don’t work out as I imagined they would-what a relief that come November, they are gone for good.  This has the sweet ring of freedom to me.  Annuals first and foremost give the gift of second chances.

Annuals work hard in a number of other ways. They are biologically programmed to set seed before they are killed by frost.  Removing the dead flower heads sets in motion the production of new flowers.  Some annuals set no seed.  The end result of this is continuous bloom; they flower willingly from start to finish.  I like this kind of return for my investment, and my effort.


I am especially fond of color; I am ready for a change from the black and white which is my winter. Annual flowers have an incredible color range from which to pick.  As many are native to other parts of the world, I appreciate their leaf forms and habits in contrast to the plants I live with every day.  Beds of large growing annuals can give the look of a beautiful perennial garden-in a smaller space, and over a much longer period of time.But mostly I love how much pleasure they give me, day after day.


Beautiful pots stuffed with flowers, flowers blooming everywhere, are a joy I would not want to do without.       

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