Annuals and perennials provide continuous bloom

July 1, 2009 lawanda Newspaper Columns

      Annual flowers bloom, set seed and die in one growing season.  Perennial flowers live three, five or even thirty years.  At first glance, it would seem that perennial plants are the way to go to save both the time of replanting each year and the money spent every year to purchase annuals.

      There is more of a financial investment in a perennial plant than in an annual plant.  Annuals can be purchased in 4- or 6-packs for about 25¢ a plant, or grown from seed for only pennies.  Perennial plants may cost from a few dollars for something like an astilbe to $70 for a yellow Bartzella peony.

      Besides their lifespan, there is one other important difference between annuals and perennials.  While most annuals blossom all summer long, perennials have a shorter bloom period.  Some flower for only a week or so, while others like yarrow, coreopsis, and catmint may bloom for a month or even more.  But some of those perennials are so beautiful that the one week of breathtaking bloom is worth the spot they occupy in the garden.

      After planting, annuals basically need watering and sometimes deadheading of spent flowers to keep turning out blooms all season.  Some perennials need deadheading after bloom and then division every three years or so, and cutting back in fall or spring. 

      Ideally your garden would have something in bloom at all times.  Here’s how it works in the garden I have around my pond.   In spring, daffodils bloom first.  Red tulips overlap the daffodil bloom.  Pink and white bleeding hearts come next, along with white and purple violets.  At the pond’s edge, yellow irises bloom.  Next comes dark red and light pink peonies.  As soon as those finish, the roses come into bloom along with comfrey, spiderwort, creeping bellflower, speedwell, yellow yarrow, lemon lilies and coreopsis.  In the pond, pink waterlilies look so perfect you’d think they were fake.

      On the slope in back of the pond, creeping baby’s breath has small pink and white flowers, snow-in-summer shows pure white blooms, lemon thyme has purple blossoms and creeping sedum displays bright yellow starry flowers. 

      Soon red yarrow, white campanula, orange dayliles and purple Russian sage will bloom.  Behind the pond, another creeping sedum will bloom in dusty rose and germander will show its pink blooms.  The snow-in-summer and creeping baby’s breath that I cut back after first bloom will produce a few more flowers. 

      In late summer and fall when all the other plants have finished their bloom, ‘Summer Glory’ and ‘Autumn Joy’ sedums will bloom in light and dark rose.

      It took many years to get this garden blooming in succession the way I wanted it.  Still, there are times when it looks drab.  That’s why I let white alyssum, pretty johnny-jump-ups and airy cosmos self-seed, and I move containers of petunias and geraniums among the perennial plants wherever needed.


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