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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Annuals

With a name like “Annual” you get the impression the plant lasts for only a year. This is totally erroneous. The annual, in fact, will die after it accomplishes its mission in life which is to produce offspring. This can take as little as a few weeks from the germination of the seed to the flower being pollinated and gone to seed. This is where learning about annuals comes in handy.

Every gardener should learn the psychology of the annual. Knowing this will help you to understand how best to manipulate them to your advantage. Oh, really it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Gardeners are the ultimate manipulators. We take that which Mother Nature has created and make them better, bigger, grow faster and bloom more. That’s gardening in a nutshell.

The annual lives to produce seed for future generations. Continuing the species is its only priority, its only motivation. Deny them this and they will bloom in perpetuity. Believe me this one, folks. I’ve seen it with mine own eyes. My mother, a master gardener if ever I saw one, kept Pelargonium ( A.K.A. Scented Geranium), Impatiens, Periwinkle and assorted other annuals blooming continually for 3, 4 and 5 years in her home. Now that doesn’t sound right for something called an annual but that is the name they have and we’ll just have to live with it.

The annual in general is easy to grow, easy to keep blooming with proper and diligent deadheading and a marvel to the gardener. From the tiny, low growing Alyssum to the tall and wiry Cosmos, the widely available Marigold to the versatile Zinnia, there’s an annual to please every person, every garden type and every climate.

Because they have a tendency to self sow annuals at times appear to be more like the beloved perennial, always making a comeback when you least expect it. Of course to get them to self-sow you have to stop deadheading towards the end of the growing season or at least allow the prettiest, nicest and best producer to go to seed. You can then allow the seeds to scatter to the winds to grow willy-nilly or you can pick them and store them for the next growing season.

Many plants are called annuals when they are in fact either biennials or perennials that aren’t cold hardy in your area. It really matters not what they truly are, annual, biennial or perennial. They all can be a bonus to the garden bed. Try an annual or two or seventeen. You won’t regret it.

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