Perennials? Annuals? Try both at the plant sale
By Amy-Lynn Albertson
Rowan County Extension Director
Perennials are plants that live year after year. Trees and shrubs are perennial. A lot of garden flowers are herbaceous perennials. This means the tops of the plants die back to the ground each fall with the first frost or freeze. The roots persist through the winter and every spring, new plant tops arise.
Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle from germination to setting seed and dying in one season. A biennial achieves its life cycle in two growing seasons, with vegetative growth the first season, then flowering, seed production and death the second season.
Because annuals and biennials have such a short life span, it is crucial they bloom quickly. Blooming quickly is an excellent trait for those of us who are impatient gardeners. These plants have a more extended bloom season than most perennials, and this can often be extended by removing spent blossoms or dead-heading.
An advantage to using perennials is that they do not need to be planted each year. With careful planning, a perennial flower bed will change colors as one type of plant finishes and another variety begins to bloom. Perennials add color, fragrance and texture to the landscape, but they can also be used to transform an otherwise dull yard into a spectacular place you will want to visit repeatedly.
When designing your perennial border or garden, you need to start out with some careful planning. It is essential to decide what time of year you want your garden to look its best. For beginners, it is easier to start with one season of peak interest and have supplemental seasons of early bulbs or fall color.
Once you have chosen your season of interest, make sure you select plants that can stand the test of time and still look their best. Some plants, once they have finished blooming and set their seed, do not look their best, whereas plants like coneflower carry pretty seed heads that require little maintenance to keep up.
Look for good foliage over flowers, since flowers come and go but the foliage remains. It is essential to consider the direction from where the most reliable source of sunlight will come. Many plants like daylilies and clematis will turn toward the light and you do not want them facing the back of your garden instead out front.
Color is another important aspect of your design. Specific colors like red, white and yellow can pull the eye forward, while blue and gray often appear farther away than they are. Do you want a border that jumps out and draws attention or one that seems to recede? Ultimately, choose the colors to please yourself. After all, you will be the one looking at it every day.
A variety of perennial and annual plants for sun and shade will be available at the Rowan County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Annual Plant Sale. The sale will be from 8 a.m. to noon May 5 at the Rowan County Extension Center, 2727 Old Concord Road.