Everyone becomes a gardener for at least 45 minutes each spring. During that time, a person who is otherwise completely uninterested in annual plants makes an impulse purchase at the nursery or super market of some colorful lovely that catches his or her eye, gets it home, gets it to the general vicinity of the area they had in mind for it—patio or front porch—may water it once, and may even haul out some old bag of soil and plant it! Then it quite possibly is left to its own devices for the next month or two, and in late July or August, when the plant is more of a hot mess than a fresh lovely, it is discarded.
If you are reading this, you probably get a bit farther in the process than what I have just described, but you probably did something similar at least one busy summer in your life. I sure did.
More likely, you spent a nice chunk of change on a range of fresh lovelies that didn’t devolve to the hot mess, but never looked as good as the day you bought them. There are several reasons this could have happened and I will quickly outline the ones easiest to avoid. I’m going to assume that if you are still reading, you know that they will need steady water, good drainage, and some occasional feeding. I’m also going to assume that you read the little plastic bits that tell you if it likes sun or shade. Consider this a 4th grade, not a 1st grade primer.
Potential problem #1: You bought perennial plants in bloom. Then what happened? Their bloom period ended. The bad news is that your color from that plant could be done for the year, depending on what it is. The good news is that you can plant it in your garden next fall, (or now, if you want to make room for a flowering substitute), and you can get that show that attracted you in the first place next spring.
Potential problem #2. You bought spring flowering annuals that don’t love the heat. The plastic bits tell you that lobelia, for example, is a sun loving annual that flowers all season. They don’t tell you that you ought to be living in Maine in order for this to happen. Many flowering annuals get pissed off about the heat. That list would include lobelia, snap dragons, calendula, larkspur and of course pansies. The good news is that you have beautiful plants until the weather turns hot and that you can go shopping for more plants if that is what makes you happy. An easier and less expensive strategy would be, unfortunately, for you to avoid these plants and aim for the ones that will go the distance in summer heat.
Potential problem #3. You missed the memo on grooming and deadheading. Your plants will grow, but if you don’t edit the brown bits, old blooms, fallen leaves, cobwebs, and random bits of litter (water balloon detritus, anyone?), they won’t look good. Don’t be a slave to it, but at least once a month, take away the uglies.
Look for future blog posts that address what are my favorite plants that go the distance in the summer and how to keep them looking good!