It is a good day, however, for assessing some of the summer's successes and failures while they are still fresh in my mind. The gardening journal I dutifully started last spring has had sporadic entries once gardening season got into full swing. I'm hoping some of my blog posts will help me remember next year what I planted and when it bloomed. One of the topics I wanted to note in my journal were the annuals I planted and how they turned out this summer. So today it's final exam time for the annuals:
My favorite annual this year had to be the large zinnias I planted. I've shown you these several times before--with much better pictures--so I won't dwell on them too much. Originally, they were supposed to be a temporary border at the back of the new roadside garden expansion. I couldn't make up my mind what type of perennial to plant behind the gaillardia, and I had already spent so much money on plants this year that I thought they might work for a "filler" for this year. However, I was so pleased with their bright colors and long bloom time that I plan to plant them in the same spot next year. Besides, a couple dollars on seed vs. $40 or more on perennials sounds like a winner to me!
Final Grade: A+
The gaillardia "Oranges and Lemons" were the only perennials I knew I wanted to plant in this area, so everything else had to work around them. I decided again to use an annual this year for a front border for them, choosing these white Profusion zinnias. I bought these near the end of the spring season, and the only whites I could find looked like they were on their last legs. I planted them anyway, gave them a good drink of water, and to my surprise they did take off, spreading, as I had hoped, to form a mass of white blooms edging this part of the garden. I only wish I had a better picture--especially one without weeds--but I think I was focused on capturing a butterfly photo when I took this, not the flowers. These bloomed continuously until the first frost and will also be planted in this flowerbed next year, with a note to self to buy them earlier in the spring.
Final Grade: A
Here's an "oldie but goodie" that I have also shown many times here. The salvia "Victoria Blue" was planted once again in the original roadside flowerbed as well as beside the large landscaping rocks bordering our driveway. Placed behind the daylilies, they begin to bloom once the daylilies start to fade and make a nice complement to the pink of the coneflowers behind them. I took this photo just this past week, while cleaning up the dead zinnias from this area, so you can see that they bloom right up until a hard frost. Definitely a keeper.
Final Grade: A (Six years in a row...)
I also planted a double purple supertunia in the center of this flowerbed, but forgot to take a picture of it--oops. I planted it in front of a basket turned on its side, with the idea that it would look as if it was spilling out of the basket. The petunia did well and is, in fact, still blooming, but I need to remember to raise the soil a little more at this point so that it is more prominent and "spills" more from the basket.
Final Grade: A-
Our front porch--where I like to sit in the early morning with my coffee--has a built-in planter that I love. Every year I seem to plant the same flowers--geraniums and petunias in shades of pink and purple--and every year I am a little disappointed with the results and vow to change it the following year. But, of course, being a creature of habit, I found myself planting the same flowers this year with a couple new tweaks. These petunias were ordered from one of those cheaper mail order companies. They were called simply "waterfall petunias," and the photos in the catalog showed mounds of petunias cascading over a rock wall. I was a little skeptical, even more so when the plants arrived--tiny little 3" seedlings with no blooms. They certainly didn't produce the showy mounds that were pictured, and they were all violet instead of the three varieties promised, but this one plant especially did surprise me in how it grew. I'm sure this is some variety of Wave petunia, but it certainly cascaded more than any other Wave or Supertunia I've planted before. I'll try it again next year.
Final Grade: B+
The rest of the planter was filled with the pink zonal geraniums I just can't resist and double purple Supertunias. Both did much better than last year, which was a dismal failure, but that was probably due to better care than the plants themselves. This past spring I dug out all the dirt from this planter and replaced it with a good quality potting soil instead of the cheap bags sitting out in the Walmart parking lot--definitely worth the extra money! I also think in the past I didn't water this planter deeply enough. It sits under the roof overhang, so it rarely gets any rain water; this year I made sure to water it more frequently and more thoroughly.
Zonal Geranium's Final Grade: A (over protestations that it is teacher's pet)
Supertunia's Final Grade: B
As an afterthought, I also stuck in one sweet potato vine, "Marguerite." I miscalculated how many of these I needed for containers, so I thought I'd try the extra one in the porch planter. It grew and grew--almost too much. I liked the cascading effect over the wall, but it made the planter look off balance. I'll rethink this whole planting next year, perhaps using two of the variegated sweet potato vines instead and something other than the purple petunias which just kind of "sat there."
Final Grade: B+Aside from the zinnias, the biggest pleasant surprise this year was this verbena "Homestead Purple." I have planted verbena next to my large rocks before, but never this variety. The Homestead spread outwards and upwards and tolerated drought and excessive rain. It is still blooming in this chilly weather. I have tried and tried to take a photo that showed the whole plant to its advantage, but no matter the time of day or the cloud cover, the flowers never show their true color. The blossoms are actually much darker than this, but not a deep purple.
For the past couple weeks, though, I've had some surprises here--blossoms of pink top part of the Homestead Purple.
And next to those are red blossoms! I have no idea what's going on here--a mutant plant? Whatever the color, this plant is a stalwart and will definitely be purchased again next year, if it doesn't survive the winter. I've seen it on other blog posts--is it a perennial in warmer zones?
Final Grade: A
(Just a note about the grading system--I had a reputation as being a tough "grader" when I was teaching. I didn't "hand out" A's easily, so these annuals have earned their high marks.)
As you can see, I didn't plant too many annuals this year outside of my containers, which will be the topic of another, later post. My original intention for most of my flowerbeds was to fill them with perennials so that one day, when I am really, really old and the knees are too bad to kneel down and plant flowers, I can look out at my garden and enjoy all the beauty without having to lift a finger. Yes, yes, I know that is wishful thinking, but the first flowerbed I planted here has already filled in with perennials to the point of overflowing, in fact. This was the first year I didn't need to add any annuals to fill in bare spots there. Well, actually I did plant some sweet alyssum as a border in this bed, as I usually do. I purposely left it out here because I wanted to save it for this Friday's Bloom Day post-- it may be the only flower I have left blooming!
*Late update: After writing most of this post this morning, I changed my mind this afternoon and did plant some extra bulbs at my son's house. It was the only time Granddaughter, age 5, could help. She's the one who admires Grandma's flowers and loves to hunt for baby toads and praying mantises in my garden. She's quite a little gardener and brought out her own pink trowel and rake to help me. With our hooded winter coats and gardening gloves on, we managed to avoid frostbite and were treated to hot chocolate by her Mommy afterwards!