Tag Archives: annuals

Floriforous

Flowering Annuals this summer have been “floriforous” and beautiful. It’s not a “figleaf” of my imagination. A kaleidoscope of flowering annuals have colored our world this summer responding to weather favorable for their growth. Last week I had the opportunity to tour the Ball Seed Gardens in West Chicago. Back in 1905 George J. Ball launched a one man business which today has blossomed into a world leader in horticulture. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Anna Caroline Ball the third generation leader of the family owned Ball corporation. We then walked the gardens and I thought I would share some of the beauty we saw that day.

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Plant One on Me

Plant One on Me
May is time for a good swift kick in the “plants” because it’s a month where we can plant just about anything. In most years our last frost occurs in early to mid-May giving us an opportunity to plant both tender and hardy plants. Adding flowering annuals, foliage, herbs and vegetables to our hardy landscapes makes the yard come alive. From vegetables and herbs backyard to table to stunning flowering annuals in colorful containers, the selection of plant material today is fabulous with new varieties added to the mix every year…. so plant one on me!
The current trend in the gardening world is for high impact low care plants. Flowering annual varieties today provide opportunity to plant vigorous blooming heat tolerant plants with little or no deadheading needed. One of my favorites is Gomphrena globosa.

Gomphrena with Prince Pennisetum in background

Gomphrena with Prince Pennisetum in background

Heat and drought tolerant, deer resistant, this flowering annual performs all summer long even when neglected. I enjoy the purple Gomphrena with cute little “globes” as flowers that look great in combination with a yellow blooming plant like Melampodium. The red Gomphrena known as ‘Strawberry Fields’ performed great for me last summer in the heat with its blooms that look like strawberries on a stem. Tough continual bloomers like Diamond Frost Euphorbia, or Supertunias and Calibrachoa also known as “Million Bells” will bloom reliably until a hard frost in October. Flowering Vinca is a great substitute for impatiens in sunny areas especially where downy mildew is a concern. With glossy foliage and continuous “impatien-like” blooms it is a slow starter in spring but when the heat gets turned on in summer it blooms prolifically tolerating hot weather. For those of you keeping score this is not the invasive groundcover Vinca but rather a flowering annual with a botanical name of Catharanthus roseus.
Flowering Vinca

Flowering Vinca


Don’t forget the role that interesting or colored foliage can play in the landscape. Coleus today is available in a multitude of colors and not just for the shade anymore. The sun and shade tolerant kaleidoscope of foliage will be a show stopper all season long.
Captivating Coleus

Captivating Coleus

Annual ornamental grasses like Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ even thought they last just a season are well worth the money and known as a goof proof plant. It will reward you with fountains of plumes in summer and fall. Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ will do the same with variegated foliage. Other suggested foliage plants sure to please are the new varieties of Ipomoea, commonly known as sweet potato vine, available in black/purple, chartreuse, bronze or lime green to gold colors. The foliage can be heart shaped or palmate which means it looks like a hand with fingers. Finally in the area of foliage I suggest trying the unique look of Cyperus ‘King Tut’ for something interesting. It looked both prehistoric and modern at the same time in my landscape. If you’re one of those people who tend to overwater, this might be the plant for you. I’ve experienced it working well in both damp and normal soils.
The trend of high impact and low care plants extends well beyond flowering annuals. Own root landscape or shrub roses or dwarf buddleia like the Proven Winners Lo and Behold will provide lots of color. Succulents are trendy right now and are definitely high impact low care plants to add interest in your garden. New introductions of perennials have also continued to enhance our landscape experience. I have been amazed by new introductions of Echinacea, commonly known as coneflower, with shades of pink, white or vanilla, orange, purple, or gold, in single or “mophead” double flowers with great names like ‘Sunrise’, ‘Harvest Moon’ or ‘Sundown’ as examples.

Regardless of what you plant, you need to be well grounded. Proper soil preparation of beds or use of good quality “soil-less” container planting mixes will help ensure success. Use of mycorrhizae and soil supplements or “soil replenishment” makes plants better “rooted and suited” to weather trends. A smart investment to zip up your “plants” considering heat, drought and weather extremes. Mycorrhizae can be added to the soil as beneficial root fungi that develop a mutual symbiotic loving relationship with your plants sending adventitious roots deep into the soil. The result is stress tolerant plants. For container plantings I love to use Osmocote. This smart release plant food can slowly release nutrients into the soil for 3 to 4 months. With the popularity of container gardening the key is a good choice of container with a drainage hole and room to grow and using a quality soil container mix and fertilizer. After that the sky is the limit with plant material! Everything from foliage plants to grasses to flowering annuals, herbs, vegetables, perennials and woody plants like roses are fair game in containers. So many great plants, so little time. I’m so ready to plant I can’t “contain” myself……plant one on me!

More “Flower” to you

It’s planting time and we’re excited about the flowering annuals we selected on our shopping trip. They’re going to look great and visions of blooming colors are dancing in our head.

More “Flower” to you!

But what if they don’t meet up to our expectations? Plants like people have basic nutritional needs. And plants just like people can’t live on just energy drinks or water, you need a meal now and then. Water alone is not enough. Well more “flower” to you. If your annuals need to go “potty” and are in a hanging basket or pot every time you water nutrients are carried out the drainage holes with it. The nutrients need to be replaced.

I recommend a combination of water soluble and time release or granular fertilizer.

Calibrachoa

Calibrachoa

One is the energy drink and the other is meat and potatoes. The great thing about water soluble fertilizer is that is quickly available to the plants and can be taken in through the foliage or roots.

Slow release “dry” on the left and water soluble fertilizer on the right

Most water soluble fertilizers recommend use every 7 to 14 days. It depends on how often you’re watering the plant. You may want to consider using it more frequently than 14 days and going to half strength. Remember that even though many of today’s annuals are sold as “self cleaning” a good pinching or pruning now and then with a dose of water soluble fertilizer will rejuvenate blooming. A dry granular feed in combination with the water soluble in tandem will get you best results. The “dry” or slow release feed is the meat and potatoes. My favorites are Osmocote and Flower Tone. Osmocote because it’s easy to scoop into a pot and provides feeding for 3 months or more. Flower Tone because in addition to the Macro Nutrients it has essential Micro Nutrients and is affordable. More “Flower” to you!