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Amazed by Annuals! By Meagan Provencher, Senior Landscape Designer for Wasco Nursery

I mentioned last month that I was bound and determined to attract more pollinators to my gardens (as well as my clients’ gardens too!). Of course, I plan to plant more perennials, shrubs, and trees to help that goal, but I also have some short-term plant tricks up my sleeve to round out my pollinator plant-a-palooza!

Every year I tell myself “No, Meagan, you are not going to go nuts and plant a bunch of annuals!” (Just to review – annuals die every year, perennials come back every year.) And every year, I walk through our greenhouses and next thing I know, my SUV is loaded to the top with boxes of supertunias, salvias, begonias, sweet potato vines, herbs, and veggies! I always fall in love all over again with the latest and greatest annuals bursting forth from the greenhouse. Early in my plant career, I thought annuals to be boring – a “once and done” if you will. But the past few years of new introductions and experimenting have opened my eyes to the colors, textures, flowers, and seed heads of intriguing annuals. Annuals are fairly low maintenance – just a little water, regular fertilizing, and occasionally some dead-heading – which is perfect if you don’t have time or space for a big perennial garden.

Because my gardens were new last year, I ended up filling a ton of random containers as well as planting up my raised “veggie” bed with flowering annuals for some instant color. I snuck some basil in the raised bed but otherwise, my giant 8’ x 2’ bed was stuffed with flowering goodies. I was rewarded with regular visits from tons of bees, butterflies, and my hummingbird friend, Lucy. I loved the Verbena bonariensis ‘Meteor Shower’ in the raised bed as well as some old-fashioned petunias that cascaded over the edges. I stuffed a Cleome in there but regretted that and should have planted it in the ground so it could reach it’s full potential of 3-4’. It still bloomed like crazy but it crowded some things out a bit towards fall (thus contributing to the experimental part of my foray into annuals in containers – lesson learned). There’s a new series of salvia called the ‘Rockin’’ Salvia and THEY ARE AMAZING. They are big plants so plant them in a large container or directly in your garden. My ‘Rockin’ Blue Suede Shoes’ Salvia bloomed all summer long with little care from me. Every so often I would snip off dead flowers but it was rare. I had a huge pot right next to my patio chair and the hummingbird would come visit – coming within inches of me. She would hover right in front of my face as if to thank me for providing her this smorgasbord of good nectar. I wouldn’t have enjoyed that so much if I had passed on planting annuals.

My gardening partners in crime also always convince me to hit the foliage annuals pretty hard. Coleus, ferns, sweet potato vines, carex, and heuchera always add that next step up of luxurious texture and color to your annual containers. A well-placed foliage plant will make your other plants shine. Try some Giant Elephant Ears (Alocasia/Colocasia) in a large pot or in your garden and your friends will be envious. The foliage is remarkable and the leaves are so large that you could build a raft out of them! Don’t even get me started on Caladium…#chefskiss.

Don’t forget annuals that are fragrant! So many annuals have sweet scents that are magnified with the heat of summer. They have to attract all the pollinators since they only live one season therefore fragrance is just one more great attribute. Annuals such as petunia, calibrachoa, pansies, heliotrope, alyssum and lantana all have pleasant scents. Tropical plants can lend greatly to that as well. If you’ve never grown an Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia), then you are missing out. It has enormous pale pink/peach flowers that open during the day and right about dusk, start to emit the most beautiful, intoxicating fragrance. I will sit in the dark next to my containers just to experience the scent wafting on the humid air of summer.

Make plans to plant some annuals and you’ll be rewarded with color all season AND visits from pollinators. Be sure to experiment and try all the fun things. That’s what make annuals so great – you can change them each year based on a whim!

If you would like more information on how to create amazing containers, stop in and talk with our greenhouse staff. We can custom make plantings for you using your pots or ours and can help you DIY if you wish. Email kayla@wasconursery.com for more info!

Meagan Provencher is the Senior Landscape Designer for Wasco Nursery in St. Charles. She can be reached at design@wasconursery.com

Wasco Nursery
41W781 RT 64
St Charles, IL 60175
1-630-584-4424
www.wasconursery.com

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