If you love pure color, waves of vibrant or cool hues, bright patches, rows, and that pop of excitement in the garden, then what you’re really looking to do is plant blooming annuals. People sometimes get the terms ‘annual’ and ‘perennial’ confused, so think of them like this: Perennials stay throughout the seasons, yet make a controlled show only once a year, usually lasting a month or less. Think hydrangeas and cherry trees. But annuals, due to their short life spans–usually less than a year–provide a sustained garden color. They’ve been bred to bloom continuously, so they’re what you want to plant when you want nothing but unrelenting color. Think flowerbed borders, containers, areas you want to highlight. Here are some of my picks for show and resilience in the summer heat:
Torenia is about as cheery as it gets and is wonderful because it spreads and takes a bit of shade. It’s hard to find a reliable blue bloomer that will provide color in shade, so keep this one in mind. It’s also good for borders because it only gets six-eight inches tall and, since it spreads, can be a nice break between your annuals and the taller, rangier perennials behind.
Petunias, because of their range in color, are an annual that people return to time after time. The problem with them, however, has been simple; they won’t take the heat of southern summers, and they play out. But here’s a new one, which is not the upright old-fashioned petunia, or even part of the Wave series of the last few years. Try the Supertunia for vigorous growth and constant bloom. Great spilling out of pots (think “cram it and shove it” as I share with all of the groups I speak to!) or at the edge of your planting, it withstands the elements, and won‘t sulk and quit blooming in the heat. Bubblegum, a light pink, is the strongest of the varieties I’ve found.
But here’s a new one, which is not the upright old-fashioned petunia, or even part of the Wave series of the last few years. Try the Supertunia for vigorous growth and constant bloom. Great spilling out of pots (think “cram it and shove it” as I share with all of the groups I speak to!) or at the edge of your planting, it withstands the elements, and won‘t sulk and quit blooming in the heat. Bubblegum, a light pink, is the strongest of the varieties I’ve found.
For every space, every need, every growth condition, there’s the Big Series Begonia. These are not your grandmother’s begonias. Like their name says, they’re outsized and literally leap out of plantings. Uniform, solid, and happy, they come in green leaf and bronze leaf varieties. The green leaf will tolerate a bit of shade, and both have red, pink or white blooms that will continue all season, right up to frost. Easy to grow and unbeatable, their blooms are like happy jewels!
Angelonia, sometimes called ’summer snapdragon,’ is quite the regal beauty, but one that flourishes in the heat. At about 18 inches, it presides over the garden with its upright growth habit, coming in shades of white to pink to lavender to violet. The flower heads never turn brown, and the serene bloom is unstinting until the very end of warm weather.
This is the perfect time of year to get the best selection available at your local garden center. Don’t’ wait too long; you want to plant your seasonal color now before the heat sets in. I suggest you bring photos of your flower beds and your garden experts will be able to help you out even more! The real key to success with your annual garden is two-fold; garden soil prep and reliable watering.
Amending and loosening the soil is key to maintaining constant bloom with annuals because of their shallow root systems and constant energy burning. It takes a lot of work to provide bloom that extends over an entire four-month season, so they’ll respond to your care.
Prepare your soil by turning it over, and mixing in amendment each time you plant. Then add a slow-release fertilizer that your annuals can rely upon for several months. And, on top of these steps, fertilize every three to four weeks with Miracle-Gro, or something comparable with the word ‘bloom‘ in the title. With this kind of care, I guarantee you’ll see a 40 percent improvement in growth and bloom cover. And don’t forget to water. Make watering as much a part of your summer schedule as barbecuing and trips to the lake. Giving them regular water and feeding will mean they’ll never cease their performance, and you’ll always find joy in their color and energy.
Remember to always think outside of the box and try to out do what you did last year!
Live life to the fullest!!
Chris Olsen is a nationally known home and garden guru, designer, author, TV personality and public speaker. In his book, Chris shares his landscape and gardening knowledge along with his unique flair for home decor and design.He is also a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. Learn more about Chris and all of his work at chrisholsen.com.