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Plants in the nursery
Michael found plenty to choose from in the way of annuals at Seasons Four Nursery.

Annuals Review

Michael Weishan joined expert Michael Ruggiero at Seasons Four Nursery in Lexington, Massachusetts, for an overview of plants that can be used as garden annual. What he found was a surprisingly rich variety.

When considering a choice of plants for their gardens, it seems many people choose to say no thank you to annuals. That's because annuals have gotten a rather bad and widespread reputation over the years as little more than the feeble relatives of hale and hardy perennials. What's more (or less), the term "annual" tends to bring to mind a pretty limited array of options. Well, The Victory Garden is here to tell you it doesn't have to be that way.

Kip and Paul
Gardener Kip Anderson and Paul Epsom discuss the Victory Garden's parterre just planted with Kip's own seed-grown annuals.

Botanically speaking, an annual is any plant that germinates, grows, fruits or blooms, goes to seed and then dies all within one season — old familiars like marigolds, petunias, zinnias and impatiens probably ring a bell. But around 99% of what gardeners use, and nurseries sell, as annuals — especially in New England — aren't considered annuals at all in other parts of the world. Some are actually tropical perennials, some shrubs and trees, others so-called "tender" perennials.

This is due to the fact that the definition of an annual has gradually become more flexible, to the point that it's now more about a plant's zone hardiness than its intrinsic life span. The new definition is something more along the lines of: If it dies in your garden after a year, it's an annual. Many plants that will behave as annuals in Boston, for instance, might well survive the winter in Birmingham. So if you live in a northern climate, your local garden center probably has a whole range of such "annuals" to choose from. And because they require less commitment, you can have fun experimenting with these plants to beautiful effect in your garden.

The roof deck garden
The roof deck garden was finished off with a variety of annuals in hanging box planters.

Select Annual Plants (New England):

Alternanthera dentata 'Rubiginosa'
Lobelia erinus
Salvia farinacea mealy sage
Ipomoea batatas 'Blackie' sweet potato vine
Heliotropium arborescens 'Alba'
Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'
Scaevola blue fan flower
Helichrysum petiolare licorice plant

Annuals in the Victory Garden Parterre:

Heteropappus meyendorfii 'Blue Knoll'
sweet alyssum 'Snow Crystals'
Verbena bonariensis
Matricaria 'White Wonder'
Zinnia 'Small World Pink'
Vinca 'Blue Pearl'

Annuals Selected for the Roof Deck Garden:

Alternanthera dentata 'Rubiginosa'
curly leaf parsley
Scaevola blue fan flower
sweet alyssum 'Snow Crystals'
petunia 'Tidal Wave Silver'
Salvia farinacea mealy sage

Michael Ruggiero is the author of Annuals with Style (2000).

For more information on resources used on the show, visit our Resource Directory

This segment appears in show #2709.

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Published August 31, 2007