Confessions of a Heretic; Annuals in the Perennial Garden

A few years ago I would have been a rather harsh judge of folks who planted annuals in the perennial border. I would have classed them in the category of those who add sugar to their tomato sauce or Miracle Whip to their potato salad. Basically, it struck me as a sort of ‘cheap trick’. That’s all changed. Not only do I now include annuals in the perennial border, but, I celebtate them. (By the way, I’ve no longer any qualms about adding vinegar and sweetener (agave syrup, perhaps?) to a potato salad, essentially creating homemade ‘Miracle Whip’.) Pardon me, I digress.

I can’t pinpoint the moment when I experienced the change of heart regarding annuals. It might have occured while I was admiring the ebulliant, effusive quality of the cutting garden one August day. Likely, I was comparing it, and the diversity of color, form shape, growth habit of its inhabitants, to the drab, tired, waning shades of green in the perennial borders with only rudbeckia (bright gold), perovskia (hazy blue), caryopteris (hazy blue) to do the heavy lifting. The cutting garden, on the other hand, who’s job was to provide blooms to adorn our interiors, was flowering away, with wild enthusiasm, Multi-colored dahlias, multi-hued zinnias, cosmos in shades of white, pink and vermillion, china asters in fresh pinks and magentas with sunny, yellow eyes, Bells of Ireland, with vibrant, spring green stalks, tall, African Marigolds in egg yolk, lemon, and acid yellow, drifts of lush, pink, white and carmine larkspur, robust mounds of signet marigolds, deliciously fragrant and edible. (I love to weed around these….it is PURE aromatherapy, and I’m not kidding!)

What changed? Did  I leap over to the other side, from dogmatist to pragmatist. Maybe. In retrospect, I think the artist that I am, imagined a peace treaty and a trade agreement with horticulture. This is an uptight way of saying that I embraced an “all-in” philosophy of  garden design. Does it add an expense? Sure. Is it worth it? Yes.

For clients, incorporating annuals into their perennial borders, can be  an added expense that is not always welcome, and, of course, it’s not essential, but it can extend the beauty and pleasure of the garden tremendously.

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