6 tips for choosing and planting annuals in your garden

Our resident gardening expert, Frankie Flowers, walks you through the dos and don'ts of planting annuals in your garden.

By Frankie Flowers
Photography by Shannon J. Ross

How to plant annuals
If perennials are the fireworks of the garden, annuals are the fire. Whereas many perennials have short-lived explosions of blooms, annuals provide a more constant flame of colour throughout the summer. Here's how to make the most of these slow-burning blossoms.

Don't
head to the garden centre without a plan. You will be overwhelmed by the varieties and colours available. Take time to stroll around your property with a notebook and make some notes.

Do you want to fill a bed with just annuals, perhaps in blocks of colour or at varying heights? Do you want to plant annuals en masse around shrubs or evergreens?

Think about mixing them into your perennial beds to provide pops of colour throughout the season. As you make your list, consider the garden's light conditions and proximity to a source of water, as well as the height and colour of plants you want.

Don't
get stuck on one type of plant or on one specific colour. I like to work with one major colour theme for the garden, but I am flexible enough to alter my theme based on what looks good at the garden centre.

Don't
plant in haste. Just because you're enjoying a spring weekend in shorts and sandals, it doesn't mean all danger of overnight frost has passed. You'll probably see flats of impatiens and petunias at grocery stores that look tempting, but remember: Retailers aren't necessarily great gardeners.

Do
water each annual thoroughly while it's still in its container. When you're ready to plant, turn the container upside down and gently slide the annual out, then loosen the roots by giving them a squeeze. Dig a small hole with your trowel and place the plant in the hole. Pat the soil firmly to remove any air pockets.

Do remove any flowers upon planting your annuals. This allows plants to focus on root development.

Do read the tags and make sure you follow the instructions about spacing. Many newly planted gardens look sparse for a few weeks until the annuals become established. If you plant your flowers too close together, you won't harm them -- but you will have spent too much money!

Frankie's fab 5: Annuals for part shade


Although most annuals thrive in full sun, these beautiful blooms perform best in partial shade.

1. Fuchsia: Available in pretty, feminine shades of pink and purple, these plants look lovely in hanging baskets.

2. Lobelia: Lobelia varieties include compact upright forms (10 to 15 cm), which are good for edging, and spreading forms, which are ideal for hanging baskets and planters.

3. Nasturtium: The edible flowers of this plant (available in hanging or upright forms) grow in bright shades of orange and yellow. Nasturtiums offer another advantage: They do well in poor soil.

4. Nicotiana: Red, white, pink and even light green flowers bloom on this leafy plant, which grows to a height of 30 to 90 cm. Some varieties are fragrant.

5. Snapdragon: Remember squeezing these annual favourites as a kid? Available in a wide range of colours, these upright plants grow to various heights.


This story was originally titled "Annual Report" in the June 2012 issue.

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