Tag Archive: Annual Flowers

  1. Late-Summer Flower Garden Renewal

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    Hibiscus ‘Disco Belle Pink’ is a reliable late-summer bloomer.

    In August, high summer is well established.  Drought and hot weather have generally taken their toll on gardens and gardeners, both of which may look and feel a little tired.  Caught between the tail end of the daylilies and the beginning of the asters, the holes in the borders begin to fill with crabgrass and other evil weedy entities.  We all want our plantings to look lovely, but when it is 95 degrees F in the shade the usual urge to dig in the dirt or refresh the containers is tempered by a natural reluctance to lift more than two fingers.

    What to do?  A bit of inspiration won’t cool things off, but it may make the garden look better.  The following are a few easy-to-grow and easy-to-love plants that are in bloom now and can improve the look of late summer beds and pots.

    Cheap Annuals

    Petunia 'Madness Red' (MADNESS™ SERIES) JaKMPM

    End-of-season petunias are cheap and will brighten up the late-season garden if given a little TLC. (Photo by Jessie Keith)

    Most garden centers still have a few summer annuals left, generally lurking on the sale tables or grouped into mixed container arrays.  The garden centers want them out, and as long as the plants are still relatively pretty and healthy, you can use them to refresh your garden plantings.  A few of these plants will be goners, but many simply need liberation from the pots that have housed them since spring, a bit of pruning or pinching back, a judicious amount of liquid plant food, and a fair amount of water. Leggy petunias, sad impatiens, and seemingly spent snapdragons usually take to tender loving care and will respond by bouncing back and blooming nicely until frost.

    Go to the garden center early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or on a cloudy day. Bring your bargain plants home, apply the restorative treatments right away, and pop them in place in the cool of the evening.  Don’t be afraid to disaggregate mixed containers and install the individual plants wherever you need them.  Mixed containers are all marriages of merchandising convenience anyway.

    Now and Later Perennials

    Coreopsis verticillata 'Golden Gain'

    Tickseeds, such as the compact Coreopsis verticillata ‘Golden Gain’, will bloom towards season’s end with a little deadheading and care. (Photo by Jessie Keith)

    When you take your cool-of-the-day trip to the garden center, keep an eye out for perennial species and varieties that are in bloom now.  Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.) and their relatives, the ever-increasing coneflower clan (Echinacea spp.), are in bloom at nurseries all over the country and will multi-task when you get them home, supplying color now and the promise of the same thing next year at this time.  Their daisy-family kin, the tickseeds (Coreopsis spp.) are also in bloom and should produce at least one more flush before frost if you deadhead them at planting time. Look for reliable, tried-and-true varieties found at almost any nursery, such as the classic Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’ with its vigorous habit and numerous pale-yellow flowers, and Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ with its large pink flowers with dark cones.

    Less formal perennials of late summer include Joe Pye-Weed (Eupatorium purpureum, 5-7′) a late summer star, especially for informal, cottage-type gardens or native borders.  This lofty perennial may not fit all garden sizes, so those with smaller borders may consider planting the somewhat shorter Joe Pye-weed, Eupatorium dubium ‘Little Joe’, which reaches only 3-4′ in height. All Joe Pye-weeds are stellar butterfly plants. Wand flowers (Gaura spp.) are also great late-summer butterfly plants that are airy, beautiful and generally drought tolerant.  The delicate variety ‘Pink Fountain’ is one of several pink-flowered forms that shine at this time of year. Use them in mid-border or medium-size pots for stature and delicacy.

    Magnificent Mallows

    Echinacea purpurea 'Pink Double Delight' PP18803

    There are so many unique and pretty coneflowers for the garden, such as this Echinacea purpurea ‘Pink Double Delight’. (Photo by Jessie Keith)

    Late summer is prime time for striking members of the mallow family, including shrubs like rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) and bodacious perennial bloomers like hardy, native, swamp mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos).  Both are widely available at nurseries and garden centers and bear large, prominent hollyhock-like flowers combined with attractive foliage.  Plugging a few mallows into a mostly fallow flower garden will add instant impact.  A container full of ‘Disco Belle Pink’ swamp mallow, with its enormous pink flowers, or large, red-flowered ‘Heartthrob’, will light up even the most uninspired space.

    The large, bushy swamp mallow requires full to partial sun and can be grown either in-ground or in large containers.  If you try growing one in a container, start with a high-quality, moisture-retentive potting medium, like Fafard® Ultra Container Mix With Extended Feed.  Late summer mallows, especially the swamp type, are moisture lovers and the moisture-holding crystals in the Fafard mix will keep the plants happy, even during the inevitable dry spells.

    Planting at the day’s coolest or cloudiest times will help new plants and heat-depleted gardeners stave off stress.  Be sure to water in plants as they are installed and the water daily, if necessary, until the weather starts to cool off.  After that, relax.  Your garden will have inspired the neighbors, even during summer’s dog days, and you will be ready to start thinking about all those bulbs that you ordered while sitting in front of the AC in August.

    Read more summer gardening articles:

    Protect Plants from Summer Heat

    Pruning Summer Flowers

     

  2. Annual Cut Flowers for Fall

    Nigella JaKMPM

    Love-in-a-mist flowers are airy, colorful and long-lasting. Their pretty puffy seedheads can be dried for winter everlasting arrangements.

    Some of the prettiest flowers for cutting are annuals that grow and bloom fast and thrive in cool weather. Sweet peas, bachelor’s buttons, sulfur coreopsis, love-in-a-mist and annual baby’s breath are some of the best cool-season cut flowers that flower quickly from seed. Growing them is a snap. Start them in early August, and you should have lots of pretty flowers for cutting by late September to early October.

    If you are someone who already plants cut flowers, you will likely still have annual blooms from summer on hand—like summer zinnias, tall marigolds and purple cosmos—but these tend to lose steam towards the end of the season. Removing old plants and filling in the holes with fresh, cool-season flowers will pay off. Just be sure to turn and smooth the clean ground for planting, and topdress with a good, moisture-holding mix that will allow your new cut flower seeds to germinate easily. Fafard Ultra Outdoor Planting Mix is a great choice.

    Parks 51138-pk-p1

    Towering orange sulfur coreopsis is a beautiful Park’s Seed exclusive that is perfect for fall cutting! (photo care of Park’s Seed)

    Once your area is prepared, sprinkle your seeds of choice over the soil, sprinkle some additional mix on top and gently pat the area down. Keep newly sown spots evenly moist by with daily misting or watering. Most annuals germinate quickly, in a week or a bit more. Once the new seedlings have emerged, continue providing them with needed moisture and be sure to remove any weed seedlings. Water seedlings/plantlets every two weeks with a little water-soluble flower food. This will help them grow and flower at top speed.

    Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus, 74-85 days from seed) are some of the sweetest smelling cool cut flowers, but they require light trellising. This is easily done by securing strong, firm stakes into the ground and lining the spaces between them with trellis netting that the peas can climb up with their tendrils. Renee’s Garden Seeds carries loads of exceptional sweet peas for cutting. The antique ‘Perfume Delight’ is especially fragrant and a little more heat-tolerant, which allows them to forge through unexpected fall heat.  (Read Renee’s article “All About Sweet Peas” for more information about these pleasing flowers.)

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    The classic bachelor’s button for cutting is the long-stemmed ‘Blue Boy’. (photo care of Johnny’s Selected Seeds)

    Colorful bachelor’s buttons (Centaurea cyanus, 65-75 days from seed) come in shades of richest violet-blue, pink white and deepest burgundy. Most agree that the blue flowers are the most remarkable and prettiest in a vase. There are lots of tidy dwarf varieties but these have short stems. Long-stemmed selections are the best for cutting, but the weak-stemmed plants require staking for reliable upright growth. ‘Blue Boy’ is an old-fashioned, large-flowered heirloom with tall stems perfect for cutting.

    Sulfur coreopsis (Coreopsis sulphureus, 50-60 days from seed) is one of the fastest cut flowers to bloom from seed. The long-stemmed ‘Towering Orange’ is a Park’s Seed exclusive that produces billows of tangerine orange flowers that will last a long time. (These look beautiful in a vase mixed with ‘Blue Boy’ flowers!)

    Renees swp-perfume

    Extra fragrant, colorful blooms are the selling point of ‘Perfume Delight’ sweet pea sold by Renee’s Seeds. (photo care of Renee’s Garden Seeds)

    Uniquely lacy flowers make love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena, 63-80 days from seed) especially charming in the garden or a vase. The dried seed pots are also visually interesting, allowing them to double as dried flowers. The flowers come in shades of violet-blue, purple, white and pink. One of the better Nigella mixes is provided by Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

    No flower arrangement is complete without a frothy filler flower to add loft and interest. Annual baby’s breath is the standard choice and ‘Covent Garden Market’ is a tall, airy choice that will bloom until frost. It is very easy to grow and its small, white, cup-shaped flowers make more colorful blooms stand out in a vase.

    Cut flowers make gardens and homes more colorful, so consider planting some of these traditional beauties now for fall. You’ll save money at the farmer’s market and impress your guests.