Monday, November 20
2006 Annual Review - Part 1 (Background)
I put in a lot of smaller perennials and shrubs in the fall of 2005, mainly good deals from a local garden center that was going out of business. Like a good gardener, I dutifully planted at the proper distance, ignoring the fact that some of the plants looked quite forlorn and stranded that way.
The more I looked at the new plantings, the more apparent it became that there was plenty of room for annuals in the garden. I had lots of temporary spaces to fill.
My resolution to add annuals this year left me with a little trepidation. I had always put together some wacky combination of annuals in a planter or two on the porch, but mostly shied away from using annuals in the garden beds.
See, designing a garden with herbs and veggies is exceedingly easy in one respect: Anything you do to make it look less like a farm and more like a landscaped bed is a huge achievement in the eyes of the general public. Most people think of those things as mere edibles, so showcasing their ornamental qualities proves you're clever.
Including unusual perennials like digitalis parviflora, aruncus sinensis, actaea/cimicifuga, tiarella cordifolia, and crambe maritima in your garden keeps you pretty safe from criticism, too. People cannot identify that that you're growing, so they assume that you must know what you're doing. (Even if you rip out an entire bed later that year because you decide that the sea kale is too insipid next to golden foliage without anything darker nearby... but that's a whole other post!)
When you step into the wonderful world of annuals, though, you're treading on thin ground. Everyone and their brother knows what marigolds, sunflowers, begonias and even coleus are... and, worse, they all have their own ideas about how these plants should be used by good gardeners.
I clearly needed to do some homework in this area, so each time we went to the bookstore I made a point of leafing through books and magazines devoted to the use of annuals and color in the garden. There were some great ideas in these resources, but mostly I yawned at the overused combinations, the old standby annual plants, etc.
It was probably mid January when I decided that if I was going to do annuals in the garden, I was really going to DO annuals in the garden. I resolved to use big annuals. Colorful annuals. Things I never would have grown in my old garden for fear of the "jungle" jokes and raised eyebrows they would undoubtedly earn from my former husband. And then the real research--and fun--began!
To be continued...