Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Perennials Versus Annuals

That exciting year when we planted our first flower garden, we started with digging out a small strip right in front of the house. Into this plot went a climbing rose, a regular rose and a bleeding heart. Being very green newbies, we didn't know much (if anything) about these plants that we had just put in, other than the fact that they were perennial, and were expected to return the following year.

Thankfully, the plants forgave us our ignorance and, despite initial soil deficiencies etc...have continued to grow year after year. The regular rose, who appeared to have died at some point, has stubbornly reincarnated itself even after having been 'dug up.' (Don't ask me how, I have absolutely no idea.)

In subsequent years we've added a soft purple clematis and a row of brilliant heliopsis and zebrina along the side, as well as a gaggle of gorgeous Asian lilies.

The result is a spectacular display of blooms that range from mid-spring to frost. The upside? I don't have to germinate, buy or replant them year after year, and they continue to expand both in width and height (this could also be a downside, depending on individual preference.) This aspect is especially wonderful in the climbing rose because it is now reaching towards the roof, and when it blooms the flowers are absolutely show-stopping (I will add pics later in the season.)

The downside is that perennials usually have one bloom period during the season before calling it quits for the year. Mind you, the bloom period is often quite a long one, but once it's done, it's done. The exception to this are roses. Our climbing rose blooms twice, and the ordinary one blooms throughout the summer. The heliopsis flower in July and last until mid to late August. But plants like the bleeding heart will only flower during the cooler months of spring, and the clematis and lilies also have a short, albeit beautiful, bloom period.
And this is where the annuals come in.
If (like me) the preference is for the garden to be a riot of color all growing season long, then it's a good idea to have both perennials and annuals in a mixed bed.
The downside of annuals is that they need to be regrown and/ or re-bought, and replanted every year, since, as the term 'annual' implies, they only last for one. I personally germinate approximately two hundred in my indoor greenhouses starting in March. Some annuals such as petunias start flowering as early as June and continue on right until the fall. Others begin in July until frost.
Besides the much longer flowering time, one of the upsides of annuals is the sheer variety. There is definitely something for everyone.

So, if an 'easy keeper' garden is the desire, go with some hardy perennials. They look great and come back every year.
If, on the other hand, a color riot is wanted, mix it up with some annuals and bask in continuous blooms.


Wander to the Wayside said...

Beautiful flowers!

MWebster said...

Thanks very much! More pics to come of this year's garden!

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