Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Honesty of Annuals


Seed grown orange gomphrena (globe amaranth) lights up the Sunnyside Garden.

Shut the door and close the curtain. I have to confess. I used to be a plant snob.



Orange and white gomphrena filled a gap left by the gaura that rotted.

I was convinced the only plants worthy of my garden were perennials. I stuffed my pots with annuals but had excluded them from my garden beds.



Cheap pink caladiums mingle with the 'Great Expectations' hosta that has yet to live up to it's name.

I was tempted, seduced by the permanence of perennials. They promised to be there when I needed them but they lie. They'll say anything to get a gardener to take them home.


I love these caladiums so much, I'm going to lift the bulbs and overwinter them.

But I've come to appreciate the honesty of an annual. When the going gets rough, they fall down and die and don't pretend they won't. It's a brief affair with no commitment necessary.


Coleus and Swedish Ivy (plectranthus) filled a spot in my shade garden left by the expensive variegated columbine that died. Again.

But maybe this is a good thing. Every summer you can pick a new love and start all over.



Annual lysimachia and New Guinea impatiens


'Persian Carpet' zinnias in one of my pots. Zinnias also grow in the garden beds.





A view into part of the shade garden featuring several annuals used to fill in gaps left by lily-livered, no-good, lying, yeah, baby, you're the best perennials.

66 comments:

  1. I always enjoy annuals....when I actually have the time to start them. I've grown several, but my main purpose is usually pollination or companion planting in the veg beds & I'm always surprised by how much I end up enjoying them, just for themselves. My daughter grew some in her bed - just because she loves flowers - and they are just wonderful.

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    1. Annuals bloom like mad all summer, whereas perennials usually just have one season. I'm using them more and more each year.

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  2. I've felt the same way. Perennials always seemed easier - they grow (usually) and you can leave them alone for the most part. But I've really been trying hard in the last few years to add more annuals all around my garden. They're not as time-consuming as I thought they'd be (even when you start them from seed! :) ).

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    1. I love perennials and they make up 98% of my garden but they can be short lived or temperamental so I use annuals to fill in any gaps that catch me by surprise each summer. I like being able to pick new ones every year. :o)

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  3. I feel like I am the untrustworthy element in the garden. I forget to water the plants at the side of the house, stick shade plants in sunny spots, buy plants and leave them in the pot far too long. I sense my plants have lost all respect for me, especially the ones who suffered at my hands. I tell them I'm sorry and I will try harder but I'm not sure they are buying it.

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    1. I forget about plants, too, especially the ones on my front porch. I always buy the most drought tolerant plants I can for that area knowing they'll probably be neglected.

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  4. That orange Gomphrena looks like a miniature fireworks display. I was always looking for that long-term relationship too. It didn't help that the annuals sold in garden centers seemed so ordinary. But, either something happened in my brain or something happened with the annuals sold here - probably both. There seem to be a lot of interesting annuals available now - it's not just impatiens and marigolds anymore (and even impatiens and marigolds aren't what they used to be). As another boon, due to our mild winter climate, many of the "annuals" offered here will actually last well beyond their season.

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    1. I really love that plant and am going to grow more of it next year. I agree that annuals have gotten a lot more interesting. Some of my annuals self seed, which I enjoy. A few of my perennials have been big disappointments. They will always be my first love but annuals are real charmers.

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  5. I use annuals as a great filler in the garden; they are always there when the perennials fail to thrive or fill the space quickly enough. I love that variegated plectanthrus - what a beauty!

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    1. Some perennials are slow pokes and annuals help fill the space while we wait, and wait, and wait.

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  6. Swedish? Ivy?
    I wonder how our Plectranthus acquired that name?

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    1. I have no idea! But that is the common name it goes by here. Illogical!

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  7. Ha! This post is too funny because it's too true and way too sad. Perennials do leave, or wither, or fall over or something, but don't most of them come back the following year, begging to be let back into our hearts? And that's why we keep buying them, isn't it? Annuals are one-season stands. If we want them to come back, we've either got to get them to reseed (yeah, I know--sorry) or write down their names and try to find them again next year at the same bar, um, nursery where we picked them up this year. Perennials at least USUALLY remember where we live. But I have to agree with Kris Peterson: the orange Gomphrena does look like a miniature fireworks display and I may need to put them on MY list for next year.

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    1. This post is a silly, sassy piece of fluff. But I wanted a fun way to say, "Use more annuals" and this is what I came up with. Since I have so much partial shade, they offer foliage color and interest I find lacking in many dry shade perennials. When an annual dies, it's expected. When a perennial disappears, it's just plain rude.

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  8. Annuals do a great job of filling in while I wait for my true love to come along.

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  9. I totally get this and always leave room for annuals...in the perennial bed I might add. Your example is one of my classics: the humble Zinnia. Who else brings those hot fiesta colors to the late summer garden? Not only that, but they stand up to the heat in vases outside in summer parties. The colors just don't get any better. Every year, I bring home several flats of hot pink, light pink, red, yellow, even a few cream, and they all manage to look good together in the right vases....because they are zinnias, no more no less. The ones I have a hard time are the ones that can't commit: are they a tender perennial or a hardy annual? Ai yi yi!!!

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    1. Zinnias are amazing! But I do have perennials with commitment issues. They can't decide whether to stay or go so they just sit there looking like crap til I pull them out.

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  10. Love annuals as well Tammy. They help me close the empty spots when bulbs are faded. I always buy some pots of annual impatiens, tagetes, violas etc. I loved your gomphrena, it said in Encyclopedia that 'one plant can cover a square meter of the soil surface'. I should have it too!

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    1. Gomphrena is one of my favorite summer annuals. It loves hot weather and has such interesting flowers.

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  11. I loved to fill in gaps with annuals in the garden. I´m afraid my garden now is bursting with shrubs, roses and perennials. I still sow far too many annuals in spring for which is no space to be find in the garden, they are now my give aways.

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    1. I grow too many, too. But my friends love being given my extras. :o)

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  12. Oh the joy of the cheap-thrill plants! When the long-term relationships fall through, it's so nice to have the be-still-my-beating-heart ones to fall back on!

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  13. I'm with you, Tammy! Just because you don't have beds full of petunias and marigolds doesn't mean you have to give up annuals altogether. In my opinion they are essential to fill holes and maintain color. In fact, I would use them even if I didn't have any empty spots. What would my garden be without Tithonia? But please, don't refer to Caladiums as "cheap" - they are quite dignified.

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    1. My apologies to the caladiums! Perhaps I should just think of them as "easy going, beer and pizza kind of gals" instead of "cheap". I"m in love with tithonia, too! I'm definitely going to grow it again next year.

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  14. Oh no...I'm still that plant snob! There isn't possibly enough ground space for all the perennials I love! I might acquiesce with zinnias next year. Hmmmm...but then again, maybe not. In the meantime, I choose to live dangerously! Fearlessly falling into the arms of that smooth talking perennial. (But seriously, you should see how glorious they are right now.) :) ~Julie

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    1. I love perennials, too but have a soft spot the size of Brazil for zinnias. I always have them in my garden. The brighter, the better. :o)

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  15. Nice! I also like a little fling here and there with annuals. Sometimes they just fill in when you need them, other times they turn a little trashy, but sometimes it's just bright and fun and just what you needed.... And then you can just pick up a new bunch next year!
    Thanks, you always make me smile :)

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    1. Annuals can be trashy, can't they? Talk about kiss and tell.... But the good thing is you can toss their sorry butts to the curb and find a new love. ;o)

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  16. Many of us have gone through the same evolution. I now use a lot more annuals than before. I go mostly for the half hardy that need to be started before the last frost but only for a few weeks. Then there are the bonus of the ones that self-seed.

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    1. I do have great appreciation for the self-seeders because they save me the effort. But I love how much growth you get from an annual in just one year. Perennials can be slow pokes.

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  17. Annuals or perennials, your garden looks quite nice blooming away for the summer.

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  18. Hello there Tammy girl .. I was the same as you with those "unworthy" annuals and then a couple of years ago I began to "dabble" ... dabbling is also the doorway to downfall ! .. I love that caladium and I think I am going to try that next year too! ..I love annual euphorbia .. that sparkling white just does it for me .. my worst perennials this year are some hosta .. the dirty no good stinking slugs have shredded them and now I am thinking of potting them up even at this late date (only to dig them in again for winter, BIG sigh!) .. those "copper" necklaces I bought to deter slugs ? I think they must be into S&M because they love them all the same ... who would have guessed ? argh !!
    Joy : )

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    1. Ha ha ha ha ha!! You crack me up! Slugs may be into bondage but they're cheap drunks so they're easy to kill. I love 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia, too. It's such a work horse and really brightens up the garden.

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  19. You are converting me... I did a bit of 'annuals-in soil 'planting, but obviously not enough!
    Coleus and Swedish Ivy combination is striking!

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    1. It really works well together! Both are easy care, drought tolerant plants so I'm definitely using them again next summer.

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  20. Great post! It's interesting , it used to be all about the annuals, then perennials were the go to garden, now everything can work together veggies , annuals perennials...pets, and maybe family members. I didn't plant as many zinnias this year and I am feeling sorry for myself. I did start a bunch from direct seed- thanks to you- and they aren't blooming yet but once they do I'm sure I will be happy. I have been wasting a lot of time looking at pictures of flower farms. Oh my! There are lots of cut flowers I'd love to grow! Your gomphrenacis dazzling! You always inspire me to try something different or look at things from a different perspective.

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    1. Awwww, thanks! Zinnias are such cool, fun flowers. You can try them again next year and maybe start them earlier so you can enjoy the blooms longer.

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  21. I couldn't garden without annuals, especially those that come from the warmer, more tropical parts of the planet. I need that color in mid to late summer when most everything else is either green or brown. I also like the no commitment clause, and enjoy trying something new each year to plant with what I know works.

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    1. After seeing your pots stuffed with 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia, I finally bought some and now I love it! But I think the selection of annuals is vastly improved over what used to be available so there are more ways to use them.

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  22. I love growing annuals from seed and a few others I pick up for containers...so much variety to choose from.

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  23. Ha, I love this juxtaposition of high magazine drama and plants! I'm STILL a garden snob when it comes to certain plants and colours but not so with annuals. Varieties of cosmos are among my favourite annuals, especially the all white 'Purity'. Sadly the slugs like them too so I have to resort to slug pellets in wet weather (today it's tipping down with rain) which I hate to do because of the toads in my garden.

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    1. Thanks! It's a silly post but was fun to write. :o) Those vintage comics are so dramatic. I have cosmos 'Sonata' mixed into my perennial bed. The the soft, feathery foliage looks great against the bigger leaves. When I have slug issues, I put out beer traps. Slugs are cheap drunks who drink themselves to death. It works really well.

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  24. Hi Tammy, the only reason I don't have annuals is because of lazyness. I can't be bothered replacing them each year and that's why we have perennials that make up the patio pot collection, but something has happened since moving to where we are now. Six trugs crammed with annuals line the front of the house, hangings baskets full of annuals are at the back and the semi-circular border that lines the verge is full of sunflowers. I think they're going to be making more of an appearance, but I wont be starting them from seed, they all came as little bedding plug plants and I think I'll carry on as the show they give is so spectacular.

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  25. You've been wooed and seduced by all those flowers! They're hard to resist. :o)

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  26. You NEVER fail to put a smile on my face!
    I do love the gomphrena, especially the white ones and those caladiums are really pretty!
    I enjoy growing annuals from seed each year and it's wonderful when they seed themselves all over the garden each year!xxx

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    1. YAY! I like it when my favorite plants self-seed. They end up doing half the work for me. :o)

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  27. Ain't nothin' wrong with a few one night stands to liven up the perennial beds. I plop pots of them in here and there to keep from being bored. If you've got a high plant drive, you've got a high plant drive.

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    1. Too funny! You always make me laugh! :o)

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  28. lol. I love your humor. I am not a plant snow anymore-shh-my annuals get me through down times-literally!

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    1. I've changed my ways and am slumming with the cheapest annuals I can find. They're always up for a good time.

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  29. I have to make sure I hit the right button when I post on blogger-I meant not "snow" -"snob"...okay got it right now

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  30. Hi Tammy, Annuals can be hard work but I love ones that self seed. As you say - they do half your work for you. And I also like biennials - it's an affair, not a permanent committment that lasts twice as long as annuals. Funny entertaining post with gorgeous photos.

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    1. Thanks! I love the work ethic of annuals. They have a big job to do and get it done with little fuss. Grow like mad, make babies, die all in one short season. They're horticultural mayflies.

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  31. You always have such a fresh, funny take on everything! I too have come to embrace annuals for that brief, but wonderful affair "with no commitment necessary".

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    1. Thanks! Commitment can be overrated. I have plants that will be in my garden til the end of time.

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  32. True to Snob Style, I've been pretty harsh on annuals in some things I've said... But you're right - they do fill a purpose - or two - and I realize I am being unfair in my sweeping blanket statements. In fact, I'm a total hypocrite! To prove it, and to kick my own butt for being such a snob, I'm going to go outside with my camera and document those which dwell in my garden this summer - there actually are a few... I think they deserve their own post. :)

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  33. I used to ignore annuals too. I still ignore marigolds and most petunias but I love my Amaranthus, my Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate, Impatiens species... etc. I usually decide to grow them in winter when I'm starved for flowers and gardening. I purchased some Callidum bulbs from Costco and the dang things never came up. Last time I do that!

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  34. I used to ignore annuals too. I still ignore marigolds and most petunias but I love my Amaranthus, my Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate, Impatiens species... etc. I usually decide to grow them in winter when I'm starved for flowers and gardening. I purchased some Callidum bulbs from Costco and the dang things never came up. Last time I do that!

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