Two weekends ago, I was on yet another nursery tour. This one was an all-day bus trip sponsored by Avid Gardeners. I’m hunting down fillers for those inevitable spaces left by fading spring bulbs. I’m working on the big spruce up before The Garden Conservancy‘s July 7 Open Day.
It’s only in the last two weeks that I can now add the heat lovers to my garden. With our cold rainy Oregon spring, if I planted them earlier, they would sit and struggle in the sodden ground. We’re still having 45 degree nights.
I was standing by the hoop houses at Ferguson’s Fragrant Nursery when my friend Jane Souzon came by, her arms loaded with four-inch pots of my favorite filler—Euphorbia‘Diamond Frost’. Its airy white flowers perform in the garden beds the way baby’s breath does in bouquets, adding sparkle to all the more hefty blossoms around it, and blooming from the time you put it in the ground until frost.
I extolled its virtues. Jane said, “You mean it’s an annual? I’m putting it back.”
I was surprised. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Annuals are a waste of money. I want perennials. They come back. That’s good value.”
This gardening prejudice is widespread. I did my best to counter it.
Yes, perennials present good value. However, if time is also of value, annuals can give perennials a run for their money. Let’s compare time spent on each:
Perennials:I visit every perennial in my garden—and I have a lot because I love them—at least three times a year. Maybe four times if you count staking for some. In spring I bestow a feed on each (organic 4-6-5) and renew the mulch. Throughout the summer I deadhead or cut back for a second show of blooms. At the end of the season, either fall or early spring, I bend over each and every one and cut it down. And then every few years, many must be divided—more time and a lot of energy.
Annuals:In decent soil—I do have some—I dig a hole, throw in a handful of organic fertilizer, tuck in the annual and mulch it. Containers are even easier. And I’m done. That’s it. I don’t touch it again. I favor those that don’t need deadheading and that bloom all summer. And annuals tend to depart without a fuss. After frost, they either slime away or leave behind a little skeleton, which I can pluck out of the ground or cover with mulch to rot (and renew the soil—every bit helps).
At the nursery, Jane hesitated. Marietta O’Byrne, owner of Northwest Garden Nursery was also shopping with us. She came by carrying a tiny but incredibly colorful fuchsia, an annual for sure in Oregon. She told Jane, “The best thing about these new annuals is I tuck them in among my perennials and visitors to the garden don’t recognize them—’What is that exotic plant?’ they say.”
That clinched it for Jane. She kept her Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’. And I know she’ll enjoy it as much as I do. This year, I have it planted in almost every bed.
Which annuals could you not live without? # # # #