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Friday, October 29, 2010

Gardening definitions explained in simple terms, part 2

This will help you pick plants which will survive your temperature extremes.For example, if a plant is said to be a perennial up to zone 7 then I, who lives in zone 5 where it gets much colder, can expect this plant to die over the winter if left outside. I could bring it inside to winter-over but that's a tale for another time. The Mandevilla is such a plant. My uncle out on Long Island (zone 7) can grow this beautiful plant outside but I must treat it like a houseplant.
The educated gardener is the best gardener.
So, now we come to the biennial. These cause undue confusion. This plant category includes some Foxglove, Hollyhock and Queen Anne's Lace. The biennial completes it's life cycle in two seasons. The seed will grow the first year but is not likely to flower until the second year. This means it will live through one winter and reemerge in spring to bloom and hopefully go to seed to perpetuate the species. If seeds are planted two years in a row and allowed to self-sow they act like a perennial and that is where the confusion may come in. To add to the confusion the biennial can be easily tricked into blooming in less time simply by planting them later in the season, allowing them to winter over and then, come spring, they are ready to bloom in less than the usual 12 month's time. Also planting them extra early indoors during the winter months may allow them enough time to mature and bloom by summertime.

Annuals come next. This includes Marigolds, Zinnia, Cosmos, Petunia and Impatiens. These generally grow and go to seed within a season. They will die after the frost zaps them. Many of these throw their seeds around and come back in the spring without any trouble from you which at times makes people think they are perennial. But these are new plants coming. The old ones died with the cold but not before sowing seeds for the next generation. Isn't that nice of them?

The semi-hardy annual refers to those annuals which can sustain cooler temperatures and if planted in a temperate region may be able to be wintered over sometimes with a just a bit of extra protection like a thick covering of dried autumn leaves or evergreen branches. Snapdragons and at times Four o'clocks have been known to make it through some winters when covered well. It's hit and miss with this bunch. Experimenting is the only way to know for certain.

I hope this has eliminated some confusion. I know you won't want to do any gardening if all that Greek makes your head hurt. Oh, yeah, I forgot. It's Latin. Whatever, just go out there and plant something regardless what it may be called. It'll do you some good I just know it.

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