A mix of perennials, annuals and biennials ensure color year-round

Published 9:00 am Sunday, August 3, 2014

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

My gardens are a mixture of perennials, annuals and a few biennials, because, if you had only perennials you wouldn’t have color all season. I like to mix them up in the gardens or containers and use a little of all of them so that my gardens always have color in them. Right now, the cutting garden is made up of predominantly annuals and this year they are nearly all self-seeders. Usually, as soon as the spring garden catalogs arrive, I start making a list of seeds that I want to plant in the gardens and most of my seeds are ordered from Select Seeds, as I have had very good success with what I have purchased from them over the years.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

Our weather this spring didn’t cooperate with me and so only one row in the cutting garden was sown by me and the rest just came up from last year. I love it when flowers self-sow, but with that always comes surprises and I have to wait until the seedlings are big enough to identify before I start culling the unwanted ones. Most of the time, Mother Nature does a better job of planting this garden than I do and very few seedlings get pulled and moved around.

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The past couple of years I have been planting zinnias along the driveway and also at the entrance of the oval garden to give me lots of color and to attract the butterflies where I can enjoy them. As of yet I don’t have a favorite but this year I tried several new varieties and I have to say that I do like them. I like the more unusual ones like queen red lime that took me a whole summer to decide whether or not I liked it. They were planted next to a container that had pink ivy geraniums and blue angelonia with snow princess alyssum cascading down the sides and, as the centerpiece, a burgundy dracaena. The zinnias just really added to this combination and, since they were planted in front of the container as well as alongside it, they blended beautifully with the rest of the colors. If you have not tried this zinnia think about adding it next year and see if you like it too.

Over the years I have planted larkspur in the cutting garden because delphiniums would just overwhelm this space with their size. Even the new millenium series were over six feet tall last year and I had to take them out of the oval garden and pass them along to a friend. Because I wanted the look as well as the bright blue color, my much smaller larkspur has worked out very well.

Zinnias of many colors as well as blue lobelia and blue star flowers fill in spots in the gardens when perennials are finished blooming. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Zinnias of many colors as well as blue lobelia and blue star flowers fill in spots in the gardens when perennials are finished blooming. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

One of my favorite blue annuals has been very difficult to locate at garden centers the past couple of years, and I was delighted to see browallia in several of them this year. I love the cheery blue color of these flowers, and blue is always a grounding color in my gardens that tones down some of the brighter colors.

This year I planted benary’s giant wine behind the rudbeckia in the raised beds and was so disappointed when none of them germinated. This would have been such a stunning combination and I have really loved having this zinnia in my gardens other years as the color is so striking and really makes a statement.

My trellises hold morning glories that clamber up them and greet me every morning with their cheery faces in several shades of blue, pink and purple. This adds height to the gardens and also disguises an otherwise dreary gray fence. Elevated containers hold calibrachoas in several different colors and this year I also added the sterile cleome senorita rosalita to the one along the back gate. I love this colorful annual that gets quite tall for me, so it is on my must-have list every spring.

The cutting garden just wouldn’t be complete without the double click cosmos that stand so tall with their lovely light green foliage and gorgeous flowers in shades of pink, burgundy, cranberry, white and bi-colors. Such a statement they make!


Carol Hegel Lang is a green thumb residing in Albert Lea. Her column appears weekly. Email her at carolhegellang@gmail.com.