Annuals

What are they? 

Annuals are plants that do not survive past a year and are meant to add vibrant splashes of colour to your garden.  Spring annuals get planted in Spring and usually last until Fall.  Fall annuals get planted in Fall and usually last until winter.

Preparing the soil

requires a bit of work but is crucial for providing optimal growing conditions for your annuals.  Loosen up heavy, clay soils by adding peat moss, sand or compost.  This improves drainage.  For all soil types, add an all purpose fertilizer like 6-8-6 and work it into the soil so that it is well-distributed.  Smooth down the bed with a rake or hoe and it is ready for planting.

Planting

Planting in a sunny location with good drainage is more important to most annuals than the quality of the soil you plant them in.

Use the colourful brilliance of annuals to fill empty spaces between shrubs, perennials or rows of vegetables.  Annuals are a great way to brighten your garden while waiting for perennials to bloom.

Annuals do not like being fed with too much nitrogen.  Too much nitrogen prompts an abundance of green growth and not enough flower power. Instead, feed your annuals every 3-4 weeks with a fertilizer high in phosphorous.

Watering

Watering is essential when establishing newly-planted annuals and also for maintaining mature specimens.  Before planting, thoroughly water your new annuals in the container they came in.  Then wet the soil area where the annual will be planted, and water the annual once it is  planted.

Give the plants a good soaking at ground level whenever the soil begins to dry.  Avoid overhead watering as wet foliage encourages the development of plant disease.

Pruning and grooming

Pruning and grooming are important for some annuals to encourage bushy and vigorous growth and continuous blooming. Use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the growing tip on the main stem just above the leaves.  This promotes branching and a bushier habit.

Most annuals thrive best in a sunny position, but the following varieties prefer shade or are shade-tolerant:

Begonia – Wax & Tuberous

Coleus

Forget-me-Not

Fuchsia

Impatiens

Lobelia

Mimulus

Nasturtium

Nicotiana

Salvia

Torenia

Vinca

 

Perennials

What are they? 

Perennials are plants with soft (non-woody) stems that live for more than one season.  The leaves die down each winter but the roots survive to send up new shoots the following year.

Some tender perennials are grown as annuals in colder climates.

Save money by purchasing perennials that reseed or by sowing your own perennials.  Good self-seeders include yarrow, columbine, lamb’s ears and pulmonaria.

Sharing seeds with neighbours and friends is an economical way of increasing the variety of perennials in your garden.  Seeds should be sown in pots and kept warm and humid.  Seedlings can be planted outside once they have a set of leaves.

Plan your plantings carefully  

Once you plant a perennial it will occupy that spot for years.  Draw out your plan, arranging the layout so that all your perennials can show off their flowers and foliage to the best advantage.  Remember that perennials look best when planted in clusters.  Vary the number of plants in each cluster.

Timing

Plant perennials in spring once the soil warms up or in fall before the ground freezes.  Avoid planting in summer when drought and warm temperatures place undue stress on any kind of new planting.

Enjoy beautiful foliage because perennials bloom for a short period of time.  Make sure to choose perennials with attractive and interesting foliage to add to your garden’s beauty.  Some perennials will bloom twice a year, either naturally or after being cut back.

Watering

Effective watering is done by a soak and spray method.  Give the roots about 2.5cm of water weekly.  Soft stems may flop over if watered from above.  Floppy stems should be staked to prevent physical damage.

Grooming

Keep perennials compact and bushy by nipping the stem tips off with your thumb and forefinger.  This will also prevent leggy stems prone to falling over.

Remove all dead/spent flowers to maintain the look of your perennials.  This also helps plant vigour since energy is no longer channelled into  dead blooms but instead goes into the plant itself.

Winterizing 

Winterize your perennials by removing any dead leaves and/or foliage in the autumn.  Also consider mulching which can help perennials survive the winter cold.