Flowers of Every Hue

Gardening with annuals is a colorful experience.

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    Nasturtiums make bright basket gardens that are beautiful and edible.
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    If you have enough room to let it range, sweet potato vine makes a colorful backdrop and a big statement on its own.
    Jerry Pavia
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    Consider colorful foliage plants to expand your planting palette. Young
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    Celosia is valued for its flowers and foliage.
    Jerry Pavia (2)

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Have you ever had the urge to liven up your summer landscape only to drop the idea because you fear the undertaking will be too challenging for both your psyche and your pocketbook? A planting of new shrubs along the back lot line would add a great deal of interest to the backyard living area, but it could get expensive. A new perennial border abutting the deck might add needed color where it is lacking, but the planning process might not yield the desired long-term results. If these issues plague your perennial planning, perhaps it is time to think instead about using a variety of affordable summer annuals to get the job done.

Annual flowers often get a bad rap because homeowners think they are expensive to purchase and labor intensive to plant and maintain. While both thoughts can hold some truth, a little research can make either of them short-lived.

Despite my Midwestern frugality, I have learned that annuals make an excellent and aesthetically pleasing investment for the landscape. Spending $25 to $30 may seem like a significant expense for plants that will last only six or seven months. However, when you consider the cost of one lonely flowering shrub that’s easily lost in the vastness of a home landscape, it will seem like a bargain when your deck becomes an eye-catching oasis with all the annual-flower-filled containers those same dollars can purchase.

A little research can go a long way in aiding the selection of annual flowers that will prosper in your landscape. The plantings seen on nationally televised gardening shows may not fare well in Nacogdoches, Texas, or Lostwood, North Dakota. Locally owned garden centers and state extension offices are great places to find out which plants will thrive at your particular point on the map.

Each environment presents specific challenges with little continuity from place to place, so you should try to avoid buying a plant simply because it looks appealing at the garden center. Doing so can mean setting yourself up for disappointment.

My wife did some flower shopping for me a few years ago and brought home some of the finest looking violas I have ever laid eyes on. Unfortunately, it was the first part of May, and the plants were going to be finished in a few weeks as the weather continued to warm. Violas, pansies and many of the annual Dianthus will look terrific when it is time to shop for flowers, but in my climate, most of them will disappear from the color palette during the heat of the summer.

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