Begonias provide a colourful addition to any garden.

Begonias provide a colourful addition to any garden.

Ground Rules in Gardening: With the right care, annuals are a colourful garden staple

Patty Siddall explains growing annual flowers in Trail, BC.

An annual is a plant that completes the life cycle in a single growing season.

It usually germinates, flowers and dies within one year. While some may feel it’s a lot of work to plant these flowers every season, there can be many delightful rewards.

Annuals/bedding plants offer continues colour from May through October and give us the opportunity to change up the look of the garden every year if we choose.

Even though annuals are easygoing because they are bred to be tough and durable, most are also heavy feeders and fairly thirsty.

All the lush growth and continuous blooms require lots of nutrients and regular moisture.

Whether planting them directly into garden beds or into containers, I first deeply water the new bedding plants and soil. I add good compost and bonemeal next, then mix it all together and finally, pop in the plants.

If I’m planting in containers I also add a scoop of bloodmeal and some slow-release fertilizer just for good measure.

I’ve tried many varieties of annuals throughout my gardening journey. Some performed beautifully with little effort , while some were not as rewarding.

As promised, this week I want to share some of my favourites along with recommendations from my friend, Bill Garnett.

Bill has had extensive experience planting baskets and containers for sale at Columbia Valley Garden Centre as well as using annuals in the Communities-in-Bloom beds for the last several years. The winning specimens usually require little fussing or dead-heading.

At one time, there was not much selection for shadier garden spots; not so any more.

Impatiens have been a staple in my garden beds but my favourite shade annual is the tuberous/non-stop Begonia.

Given morning sun and afternoon shade they put on a glorious display and are available in double or single-flowers and a multitude of colours.

They grow 12 to 18 inches tall and wide. Some of Bill’s favourite feature plants for shadier spots are the ‘Dragon Wing’ Begonias, Ivy-leaf Geraniums and ‘Wizard Mix’ Coleus. For fillers, he suggests the pretty blue Torenia or ‘Swingtime’ Fuschia and for trailing plants, Bill recommends white ‘Snowstorm’ Bacopa, Lobelia, ‘Wojo Gem’ Vinca or ‘White Nancy’ Lamium.

The majority of annuals require full sun, which means they need direct light for at least six to eight hours daily.

My favourite for garden beds happens to be ‘Victoria Blue’ Salvia because it doesn’t seem to need dead-heading. The foliage is grayish-green with deep blue flowers that run up and down 8-10 in. flower spikes.

Another staple in my garden beds is white, Sweet Alyssum; there’s nothing that beats it for fabulous fragrance. In containers, I quite often use Geraniums and ‘Purple Fountain’ Grass. Bill recommends the ‘Patriot’ geraniums. They are early bloomers with sensational container performance. For sun fillers, he suggests the pretty little yellow sanvitalia (creeping zinnia), ‘Callie’ series of Calibrachoa and/or the ‘Diamond Frost’ Euphorbia. For trailing specimens he likes to use Lobelia, ‘Caroline’ Ipomoea (sweet potato vine) or blue, daisy-like Felicia.

Combinations of colour and textures in the garden are a creative preference.

Whether your garden design is casual or formal, annuals are an excellent source of accent and colour for great garden pizzazz.

Patty Siddall operates a local garden business and shares this space with business partner Betty Drover every other Friday. Contact: 250-364-1005.

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