It is that time of year again. Time to plant my summer annual flowers. I am a little ahead of schedule because it has been a very warm week here in Pennsylvania. There shouldn’t be any more frost, so I went to the nursery, actually nurseries, yesterday and loaded up. This is what I came back with.
I went a bit of a different route this year. Usually I pick an assortment of cottage-style flowers, but this year, I kept practicality in mind. We are gone many weekends in the summer and keeping up with the flower watering can be a challenge. My deck gets direct hot sun all day and I have had some casualties in the past because they dried out while we were gone or even just while I am at work for the day. One of my favorite annuals is calibrochoa. Calibrochoa has non-stop flowers all summer and each year, they come out with more colors and variations. I usually do multiple calibrochoa each year because I love them so much, but you can lose them if you fall behind on your watering. I find the calibrochoa with the smaller leaves are more susceptible to drying out than those with the larger leaves and the smaller leaf variaties tend not to bounce back once watered. If you are considering purchasing calibrochoa, keep this in mind. The do better in large containers that do not dry out quickly. Calibrochoa dead head themselves. The dried blooms just drop off, which is nice. However, it can tend to get annoying when they fall off onto your deck. So this year, I have limited myself to one location where it won’t matter where the dead blooms fall. Calibrochoa are great for containers and hanging planters. They do trail and fill out a basket or container rather quickly. I can’t recall the name of the plant in the center. It will get purple flowers.
Because of the direct sun and us being away quite a bit during the summer, I selected annuals this year that can stand up to the heat and some occasional lack of watering. I am not a huge fan of marigolds, but I did choose to use them this year because they hold up very well under these conditions. The downside is you do have to dead head. I paired them with salvia which is one of my favorites. I use salvia each year. It is a good performer, blooms all summer, easy to dead head.
Zinnias are another one of my favorites. If I could, I would have a field of zinnias so I could have cut flowers all summer long. Zinnias do pretty well if you miss an occasional watering. They don’t like over watering. Great colors, good performers. They only drawback is that mid to late summer, the leaves tend to brown and dry. It does not keep the plant from flowering, it just doesn’t look so nice.
Lantana grows as a bush in the south. We are not so lucky in the north, so it is an annual for us. Lantana is known for its tolerance to heat and dry conditions, so this is perfect for my deck. Lanatana comes in a variety of stunning, bold colors and they are great for containers and hanging baskets. Lantana also attracts butterflies. They deadhead themselves, but you can also pinch off dead blooms if it bothers you. Lantanas are pretty much a “plant and go” annual. I added in a purple spike and vinca vine for a trailer. I can’t wait to see this arrangment when the flowers really start to take off.
Under my deck, I have a patio. There is alot of hardscaping here, so it really needs some softening with flowers. Probably much more than I have. Some of this area gets some sun and some shade. I always hang ferns. For the shade, I love coleus. Coleus, again, are a good performer and give great color without flowers. Coleus can get very big depending on the variety. They do grow shoots of purple flowers mid to late summer. I personally don’t like the flowers and I pinch them off. Pinching off the flowers also helps make the coleus fuller.
Boston fern poking out of the right corner
It’s been long time since I have used vinca flowers, mainly because most nurseries don’t stock this flower much around me and I am not sure why. There are pink and white varieties. They love the sun and can stand a lack of watering. Vinca do well in containers, but they also do very well planted in the ground. I happened to find some this year, so I picked some up. I can be a fanatic when is comes to flowers. I really want one of everything, so I have to restrain myself. Come mid to late summer, the chore of watering all these flowers, which starts out being therapeutic, becomes more of a nuisance, so I do try to limit myself. That being said, I ended up with more pots than usual this year.
My front stoop at my front door and some of my back yard are in shade. I stick to new guinea impatiens and the traditional impatiens in these areas. Nothing exciting, but there are not a lot of interesting annual flowers for shade, so I am somewhat limited. However, impatiens get very full and have continual great color all summer into fall, so I can’t complain.
There are many suggestions for arranging annual flowers in containers. Thriller, spiller, filler. You probably have heard of that. I do use that rule of thumb in some of my containers, especially the larger ones. The container of lantana is a good example. I usually go for a high-low mix like the salvia and marigolds. Something that grows high like a spike or other flower with height paired with something low. But sometimes, as with the zinnia, they are enough by themselves. Mix it up. I am a believer in whatever looks good to you is the right thing.
We have an RV on a lake and I do plant flowers there too. Because we may not be there for weeks at a time, I have to select flowers that can definitely hold up to sun, heat, drought and exposure. Marigolds are a “no brainer”. They are pretty indestructible. This year I plan to use vinca and lantana there too. I often use gazania which hold up extremely well to heat and dry conditions. Gazania flowers do close up every evening though, so if you ever select these, you need to know this about gazanias. They come in a variety of colors. You do need to pinch off dead blooms. Gazanias are also perfect for rock gardens.
Well there you have the run down of my annual flower selection for this year. I know these pictures are not very impressive at the moment, but I will do an updated post later this summer and show you how the flowers are filling out.