It’s time to brighten up your landscape, fellow garden enthusiasts. Central Virginia will likely have a few more cold days, and frost is possible...

It’s time to brighten up your landscape, fellow garden enthusiasts. Central Virginia will likely have a few more cold days, and frost is possible until mid-April. So, there is plenty of time to exercise an important aspect of gardening, which is planning. Planning avoids the mistake that many gardeners, including me, make: impulse buying. All gardeners see that perfect specimen at the plant retailer. There it sits, lonely with no home. Then the voice from within says, “I need that.” All right, enough “do not do” stuff. Let’s focus on making the garden bright this year.

Annuals are always good choices for the landscape due to their versatility and low cost. An otherwise drab part of the yard can be brightened by a just a small bed of annuals. A group of annuals planted at the mailbox can make the daily collection of bills and sale flyers more palatable. I know that’s a stretch, but work with me here!

Annuals also allow for experimenting. Plants, either annual or perennial, are available in different heights, shapes, colors, and textures, and, they have different light requirements. “Wrong plant, wrong place” is not a major problem for just one growing season. This lesson is especially important to beginner gardeners or when moving to a different home. Hanging baskets, window boxes, and deck or patio pots are ideal for annuals. Blooms of yellow and white that look great in the store may fade into the background of the house. Next year, switch to purple or red. An eight-inch plant that seemed lost against the home’s foundation last year can be corrected with taller plants or staggering plants of varying height this year.

Many sun-loving annuals also have an excellent trait: they are self-cleaning. Deadheading is a common gardening practice to promote continuous blooming. It promotes new flowering by removing spent blooms before the plant sets seed. The following annuals eliminate the need for dead heading and attract butterflies and in some cases, hummingbirds: lantanas, full sun plants that tolerate heat and drought; Million Bells, full sun trailing plants that do well in hanging baskets; and petunias, full sun workhorses that do well in baskets, containers, or ground covers. There are several choices when it comes to petunias, so look for the words “trailing” and “self-cleaning.”

Trends in gardening change, and many people are moving to native plants. That is wonderful, but don’t forget about annuals. Seeing a big splash of color as you turn into your driveway after a rough day at work just might be the relief you need.

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