Who Doesn't Like Flowers?

Who Doesn't Like Flowers?

Nearly everyone loves flowers: the colors, the scent, the delicate petals.  What’s not to love?  Even better, is when you can grow them yourself.  When growing your own, it helps to realize that every flower has strengths and weaknesses.  Depending on what our ultimate goal is - cut flowers for enjoying inside, a flower patch that never stops blooming, a perennial flower garden that requires minimal care, or all of the above - knowing what each flower brings to the party decreases your likelihood of unrealistic expectations and disappointment.  For example, many gardeners plant perennials because they are low maintenance, then gradually realize that they don’t bloom as much as they thought they would.  Let’s get to know some flower types so you can feel confident when planting, that you will get out of your flowers what you are expecting.

Annual flowers sometimes get a bad reputation as being labor intensive.  I feel that assumption just isn’t accurate.  Sure, they die with the first frost of the Fall (or last frost of Spring if you planted too early) but they kick out amazing flowers all summer long.  One afternoon of planting creates a summer full of color and beauty.  Petunias, zinnias, marigolds, alyssum, calibrachoa, and geraniums (to name a few) bloom and bloom and bloom all summer long with minimal care after the initial work of planting.  It’s true, they will need to be planted again next year (although many will drop seeds and come back with a little encouragement ), but they put on a great show while they last.  Don’t discount the color and beauty of annuals when planning your garden.

Perennial flowers perform nearly the opposite of their annual counterparts: the plants will return year after year with minimal maintenance, but their flowering season is limited to 2-3 weeks.  The rest of the year they only produce foliage, then cut them down in the fall to prepare them for the next season.  Their flowers can dazzle with unique shapes and colors, but just be aware that their bloom season is short lived, albeit spectacular.  Breeders have developed many new varieties of perennial flowers that have colorful and attractive foliage, so that they retain their interest all summer long - Heuchera, tiarella, hosta and cimicifuga fall into this category.  Most gardeners don’t really even care about their flowers as their foliage is so eye-catching and long lasting.  Keep in mind that while you don’t have to plant perennials each year, it still takes me an afternoon each fall to clean them up and prepare them for next year (about the same time & effort it takes me to plant my annuals in the spring).

Regularly, gardeners ask me for tulip bulbs in the Spring and dahlias in the Fall.  The best way to identify which bulbs are which is to remember that Spring flowering bulbs are planted in the fall (tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, crocus) and Summer flowering bulbs are planted in the Spring (begonias, dahlias, gladiolus, and lilies).  Summer flowering bulbs will bloom nearly all summer like annuals, and almost all require removal from the soil in the Fall to store them for replanting the following year.  They are not hardy enough to survive the winter (except for Oriental & Asian lilies).  Spring planted bulbs have a limited blooming season, like perennials, and are hardy enough to leave in the ground to naturalize, where they will rebloom every spring for multiple years before they must be replaced.  Bulbs produce some of the most unique, colorful, and beautiful flowers you can grow in your own yard.  Their best quality remains how simple and easy they are to grow.

To truly have a flower garden that your neighbors envy and you enjoy spending time in every day, is to mix it up.  The most attractive gardens - at least in my eyes - are those that incorporate the best qualities of each of these flowers to make a garden to catch the eye of all passersby.  Add annuals to your perennial garden to give it more color throughout the summer.  Plant annuals and perennials over your spring flowering bulbs so that when the bulbs are done blooming, the other flowers take over.  Believe me, they will tolerate each other very well.  Don’t hesitate to add stand-out bulbs like cannas or Dinnerplate dahlias to your gardens for some show-stopping, eye catching beauties.  Some quick foliage producing plants, like sweet potato vines, will add more color and interest into your creations than just a solid mass of flowers.

Be creative, use your imagination, and take advantage of the wide variety of plants and colors at your disposal to turn your landscape into something truly amazing.  You have a wide range of annuals, perennials and bulbs at your disposal.  Use them.  I promise, you will love the results.

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