Annuals Versus Perennials

The other day, as a group of us were spending the mid-morning having a casual brunch, the conversation inadvertently turned to gardening which is not uncommon when a number of women get together. In fact, I found myself listening intently when someone brought up the subject of annuals and perennials, as the latter have always been one of my favorite plants to grow. But that was then and this is now, for even though I love perennials, especially new cultivars and the award winners, I wouldn’t know what I would do without the annuals – our fillers, instant color-providers, problem solving versatile plants.    

Impossible to resist, annuals come in a vast variety and are often sold in four or six packs just about everywhere as soon as the weather breaks; they grow quickly, bloom all season long, and offer us a plethora of vibrant colors, so much so that unless one is set on growing the tried and true ones only, trying newer cultivars and varieties can turn into a lot of fun and excitement. Incidentally, the June issue of The Avant Gardener, a monthly horticultural publication, lists quite a few unusual and interesting annuals along with the source one can order them from.

Unless rare or of a special kind, annuals generally are not very hard on ones budget; moreover, since they finish the life cycle in one growing season, a gardener can, to a certain extent, play around with them without too many strings attached. Perennials, on the other hand, are a long term investment, providing us a big return by coming back year after. Therefore, prior to making a purchase, it is a good idea to learn about their cultural needs in relation to the conditions in ones yard, for example sunny or shady, especially when space is short; for this reason, I prefer to buy perennials from a full service garden center where a knowledgeable associate is mostly available to answer any questions or concerns.

While, definitely worth the wait, quite a few perennials bloom for a relatively short period during the season as compared to annuals; so, most savvy gardeners plan and grow different kinds of perennials in a way that something is always in bloom from spring to fall, not forgetting our beloved hostas that provide color and structure to a shade garden. Another way perennials reward us is by multiplying year after year; in fact it is considered an important horticultural practice to regularly divide overcrowded clumps which can be planted elsewhere or shared with others.

With little doubt, both annuals as well as perennials have an equal merit when designing a flower garden; by having diversity, not only is ones horizon broadened, but brightened too.  

GITA'S TIP OF THE MONTH: Would you like to start a daylily collection or add more to an existing one? Now that daylilies are at their peak, this is a perfect time to purchase plants, blooms and all, without having to guess the characteristics of the flowers.

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