Flower Power: The Role of Annual Flowers In the Perennial Garden
The main reason we use annual flowers and plants in our Northern Virginia gardens is that they grow vigorously, bloom prolifically and are versatile. That’s a pretty good reason. At Surrounds we use annuals to supplement your permanent garden plants in two ways:
- as bedding plants to provide continuous bloom, fill bare spots and brighten up borders
- in containers, hanging baskets and window boxes to place accent color at entrances or patios.
In addition, annuals are great for arrangements of cut flowers or dried flowers.
Thoughtful use of annual flowers and foliage can help get your garden off to a strong start, bringing early-season color into your landscape while you wait for your perennials to come back to life. Unlike most flowering trees and shrubs –which bloom in early spring-summer annual flowers bloom continuously through the entire summer.
The difference between annual and perennial plants
Perennials come back year after year. They reproduce through seed, but, more importantly, the parent plant comes back from the roots as well. An annual is a one year plant that reproduces through seed only. The parent plant will bloom all season, finish its life cycle and die. It rarely comes back.
Most annuals are heat tolerant and will produce flowers non-stop throughout the summer. Perennials stop flowering in the heat of summer. They flower then go to seed. However, you can push perennials to flower again during the season if you cut them back.
You could think of annuals as temporary guests in the garden, here for the high season and then gone. Think of your landscape as an art gallery. Just as art museums curate permanent galleries and supplement with touring exhibitions, you can use temporary flowers and plants to bring new vigor and visual spice to your permanent landscape.
Planting beds or containers?
Annuals can be used in planting beds to fill in where perennials leave off. Sometimes when we design a landscape we leave bedding areas open in the permanent garden for seasonal rotations of annuals.
Planters are more artistic. You have paintings on your walls inside… Well, a planter is like an art piece or a sculpture that you have outside. Tom Kniezewski, Surrounds Garden Manager
Surrounds Garden Management Specialist Tom Kniezewski favors container planting. He says container arrangements give you the advantage of bringing blooms close to your outdoor dining patio or pool deck or to liven up an entry or walkway. You have the flexibility to put them wherever you want for the most impact. The style and colors of the containers themselves add to the effect. And, unlike an arrangement of cut flowers, a grouping of annuals lasts all summer and into the fall if properly cared for.
Normally, we will place six or seven planters around the landscape. And there’s usually a foliage theme or color them that ties everything together. We meet with our clients early in the season to create our planting plan.
Sun or shade?
Both. Some annuals thrive on full sun, others love the shade. This is one characteristic of annuals that makes them so versatile in the garden. Here is a shortlist of some popular shade-loving and sun-loving annuals that bloom in summer.
Shade Loving Summer Annuals
Sun Loving Summer Annuals
What plants do well together in containers?
Kniezewski says it’s important to know what each plant likes when you combine them in a planter. For example, potato vine is a prolific grower with a tendency to dominate. You have to keep after it and cut it back. Otherwise, it will overtake the neighboring plants. In terms of moisture, petunias need more. Other plants will start to wilt if they get too much water. Your planters are like mini landscape environments that need to be fertilized, pruned, dead-headed and cared for just like the rest of your landscape.
Do annuals require different care or more intensive care than perennials?
Annuals need amended soil and regular fertilization, and that sort of care is included in most of our garden management programs. We treat them every two weeks. We push the annuals to keep them full of energy to support growth and continuous blooming. On the other hand, perennials get two fertilizations per year.
Spring, Summer & Fall Color
To sum it up for you, planning for annuals in a perennial garden gives you options in spring, summer and fall:
- start colors in early spring
- fullness in beds with fast-growing annual plants
- maintain color throughout the seasons
- change the color scheme as the seasons change
- Brighten entries, driveways, walkways, and patios with annual flower and foliage arrangements
If you don’t have a plan, our garden management specialists can help you develop one. We’d be glad to design container plantings and evaluate your permanent gardens for enhancement opportunities. Schedule a consultation with a specialist from our Garden Management team to set up a time to talk.
Perhaps you’ve been wondering how to bring out the fullest expression in your landscape and gardens. Our eBook: Choosing the Right Kind of Landscape Maintenance Firm, is full of valuable information to help you understand the fundamental differences between landscape maintenance companies.