Sunday, November 9, 2008

End of Season Annual Review

Brrrr, it's cold! It's been between 35-39 degrees (2-4 C) all weekend with a brisk wind and overcast skies. In January or February I will probably consider this a mild day, but after the last week of Indian Summer, this feels like winter to me! I still have a few bulbs to plant and some other gardening chores I'd like to finish this fall, but today is a day for staying inside, snuggling under warm blankets with a good book to read, not freezing my hands while digging in the dirt.*

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!


  1. Rose ~ What a great idea to rate your hard working plants! I'm sure this will be very useful to you next spring.
    It's nice you were able to get the bulbs planted and nice of your granddaughter to help you!

  2. Rose, I remember planting zinnias as filler one summer, and being very pleased with the results, as well as enjoying the many butterflies they attracted. I don't know why I didn't plant them again.

  3. Hi Rose, you and your granddaughter are quite the troopers getting out in the weather today! That hot chocolate was well earned.

    I enjoyed reading your review. It's a good idea to get it recorded. I do a similar review in my head, then forget half of what I resolve to change or repeat.

  4. I loved Zinnias this year too! I grew a candy cane variety and a mix called 'Persian carpet.'

  5. I have gotten more joy out of my orange profusion zinnias this year. They are still blooming even after two frosts. You can not ever go wrong with zinnias. I will definitely plant them again next spring.

    I tried the gaillardia you mentioned but I had it in the wrong bed and it drowned. I really do like that plant though.

    The homestead verbena is also such a great plant. Mine have done really well but are not blooming now. I don't know what's up with yours have pink blooms as well.

    I really enjoyed this post Rose. I like your grading system. We gardeners have to come up with whatever works for our own use.

  6. Once a teacher, always a teacher I guess:) Your grades work for me and do make it simple to chose flowers. Yours are all getting good grades so I'd take them anyday. So sweet to garden with the granddaughter and enjoy hot cocoa after a cold day in the garden.

  7. Enjoyed seeing your annuals & what a good idea to grade them! Unfortunately, I don't have room for annuals but they do look lovely & can fill in the gaps. The mutant one looks really good.
    Lovely that your grandchild could join in with bulb planting.

  8. Hi Rose.....what a wonderful memory....all the summer flowering plants......I must say the zinnias are lovely, I must try to see if I can find somewhere away from the rabbits.....they always get eaten here.....
    Your salvia are something I envy to.....they never do well here....heavy clay soil I expect.....what soil type do you have? I expect quite sandy,,,,,,

    Glad you shared time with your little granddaughter.....It is such a joy to be in the fresh air with you both enjoyed the nice warm drink....

    Stay warm and have a good week....

    It is blowing a gale here and raining hard.......

  9. Rose,

    You get an A+ on this post! A thorough and honest appraisal of your garden plantings...your story had heart, a heroine we could identify with and love, surprises and a happy ending! There was even an adorable side kick. A lovely read!

    quiso is the word verification! Sounds like quiz to me!

  10. Yes, especially this time of year, will work for hot chocolate. :) Zinnias are a must for cutting. Love seeing your annual grades.

  11. I really like your idea of an annual review. I'll give that some thought and may do one later. I'm remembering your praise of the zinnias and planting lots in my garden next spring;)

  12. Cindy, I knew if I didn't write this down somewhere by next spring I would forget everything!

    Joyce, That is exactly what Beckie and I said all summer--why haven't we planted zinnias in such a long time? Both of us will not forget next year!

    Linda, I'm not sure why I didn't plant them with her last weekend when it was WARM, but we had fun anyway. I'm going to do a post later on my containers, too, because every spring I try to remember now what did I plant last year?:)

  13. Fern, those sound really intriguing; did you post pictures of them? I don't remember the name of the ones I planted, but they were the "giant" ones.

    Susie, the zinnias have been exceptional this year. I have really been pleased with the gaillardia; they were almost drowned out, too, but survived. They're still blooming!

    Tina, No, that old "teacher" in me will never die:) Granddaughter had so much fun and was so excited--I'm going to have to get her out here more in the spring to help me. She might be my future gardener.

    Maggie May, I love annuals, too, but it is easier when you have perennials and don't have to plant them each year. Granddaughter is one of those curious about everything--she even got excited about finding earthworms!

    Cheryl, The salvia always do well for me, except in containers, I've found. We have very rich soil with clay underneath; anything that doesn't require sandy soil grows well.
    Amazingly, it wasn't as cold yesterday when planting bulbs as I had thought. And I had to keep one step ahead of Granddaughter, who was eager to do every step of the process! Stay warm!

    Gail, Thanks for the positive critical analysis! To be honest, I was writing this more for me to remember these plants next spring. Those word verifications are sometimes very ironic; I'm sure you passed the quiz with flying colors:)

    Lisa, Would you believe I never cut any zinnias to bring in the house? I just couldn't bear to lose any...I must remember to plant more next year so I have some to cut.

    Marnie, I can remember so many bits of trivia, but if I tried to remember next spring what plants worked and where I planted them, I never would. I have to write things down now.

  14. Hi Rose, this journal entry has all the makings of a meme! I am inspired to do the same kind of grading here, but will probably do it in my paper notebook journal. If only I had taken photos of the annuals. Zinnias are so rewarding and easy to throw out those seeds. I love the blue and purple salvias too. What fun with your grand daughter too.

  15. It's so nice to see perennials like the Gaillardia in someone's garden rather than on a glossy catalog page. Wayside and some of those other places ought to take notice and use real pics like yours to promote their plants. All of your plants look like top students to me, especially ones like the red verbena that exceeded certain expectations.

  16. I had never grown the annual Verbena before this year & I'm surprised mine is still blooming also. I'm pleased with any plant that's willing to keep blooming despite temperatures in the 20s, although my Verbena took a bloom vacation in the middle of summer.

  17. I like your review...I do agree about the zinnias. Last year I decided to fill in an area with an easy annual - the zinnias I used were a great highlight in the garden. I'm a little sorry I didn't do something similar this year.

    Oh, and our last bloomer up to the hard frost this year was sweet alyssum...I might be able to find some frozen blooms right now.

  18. Looks like you picked some winners Rose! I definitely am planting Zinnias next year (the tall ones & profusion series). Somehow I forgot to this year & missed out on the additional butterflies they attract!

  19. I will have to get some of those zinnias. My bed is still in the early stages and I'm trying to settle in some perennials so some annuals would be nice to fill it out.

  20. I love all your flowers :) Gardening with your grandaughter sounds fun. You do seem to have had extreems of temperatures lately. The other week I was quite envious of your endless summer, not anymore.

    It's raining here, but what's new?!

  21. Frances, Certainly anyone who wants to join in with an evaluation of annuals is welcome! I should write this down in my journal, too, but I tend to take the lazy way out:)

    W2W, I kept seeing the gaillardia, too, in the catalogues--always the same picture no matter the company, strange... I will say, though, that they lived up to their billing: profuse blooms from early summer until now.

    MMD, I've planted all sorts of annual verbenas before, but none of them took off like these Homesteads. I was really impressed! Do you know if they are perennials in warmer zones?

  22. Chrisnd, That's good news about the alyssum; I might have something for Bloom Day. I won't complain about the cold here after seeing the snow in your garden:)

    Racquel, I planted the zinnias for their looks and height, but I didn't realize what butterfly magnets they were--an added bonus!

    Liz, That's how my garden started--with a few perennials and the annuals to fill in. Now there's no room for annuals!

    Suburbia, "Endless Summer" is a good way to describe what we had last week, but I knew it was too good to last. Winter is settling in for good. Just wait till January and the blizzards! All I will be posting then are pictures of snow:)

  23. Brrrrr - we also are having cold weather. Yuk! I vote for your zinnias. They are so colourful and I can't grow them, so I will gladly look at yours.
    Thank you.
    Actually I liked all the flowers. Colours are so rich and beautiful.
    Isn't gardening fun?

  24. Wendy, I think we were visiting each other at the same time, LOL! Notice these are pictures from earlier this fall--not much is blooming in this cold!

  25. Rose, Once a teacher-always a teacher! I got so tickled at your grading the plants. If your former students only knew.

    Like you, I am going to plant more zinnias next year and plan on doing a border of the profusion zinnias. Similar to, but not nearly as large a scale as the ones at the idea garden. I hope we can find of those sweet potato vines as well.

    All in all, I think your garden gets and A+ this year!

  26. Beckie, Where DID we get those sweet potato vines?? No, I don't think the "teacher" in me is going to go away any time soon...
    Thanks for the good grade, but the garden as a whole needs some improvement, definitely not A work:)

  27. Pretty flowers. They seem like they are flourishing.
    You asked about the snake in my Q post.
    Thats the hypocratic symbol for medicine. It can be found on many insignias of doctors and hospitals.

  28. Yes, those Verbenas are perennial in the South, probably Zone 7 or 8, so I doubt even a microclimate would be enough to keep it alive over the winter.

  29. I came over to see your GBBD pics, but also enjoyed reading your review. Have you dug your potato vine? I put up a post, "Yes you can eat potato vine..." a few weeks ago. I want to plant more next year, and eat the tubers at the end of the season like I did this year. I also grow regular sweet potatoes in wash tubs, but they aren't as pretty. I planted the Homestead Verbena, thinking it's a perennial here in zone 5b. Maybe I wasn't remembering what the tag said. I hope it comes back, because I grew fond of it. I miss the old fashioned kind of verbena that has similar leaves, but not as thick, and the flowers are lighter colored that I have grown in the past. I'd love to find that again.

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