June 3, 2009
Annual Indulgence vs. Perennial Investment
Don't get me wrong, I really love annuals. Who wouldn't appreciate the season-long flower power of annuals like petunias (pictured above - sorry to the plant snobs), ivy geraniums and twinspur, to name a few in my yard. But I always feel a bit guilty buying annuals, since I can't use one of my favorite justifications for plant purchases.
It's an Investment, I told myself as I ordered yet more iris from Schreiner's and a couple more hellebores from Heronswood this week. The price I pay for these little plants now will bring a handsome return in future years in the form of ever-larger plant clumps that bloom annually. The 'Royal Amethyst' iris and 'May Night' salvia pictured above will cool down my west-side flower bed for years to come, and eventually give me divisions to spread around in other places or share with friends.
Trees, shrubs and vines like this 'Bonanza' clematis also feel like a great value, because they'll grow even larger next year when this season's annuals are long gone. We learned a bit about tree valuation in my college Urban Forestry class, and WOW! - a mature tree is worth a lot of money!
But shopping for annuals is really fun. I enjoy trying out new color combos, like the pure pink and coral pink in my hanging baskets above (the lavender vinca around the edges aren't blooming right now, too bad). I'll look at these pots all summer to try to decide if I approve of coral and pink together - what do you think?
Tender tuberous perennials like the dahlias above can be treated as perennials if you dig them up each year and store the tubers, or you can 'forget' to dig them up and let winter massacre the suckers if you get tired of them. I think I'll dig these dahlias up, as I'm really enjoying them.
OK, OK, I have ranted in the past about how I dislike orange in my garden, but these dahlias are kind of rosy-apricot-orange and look exciting with the blue-violet salvia. I'm excited to see how this bed looks when the rosy daylilies, golden coreopsis and lavender shrubs add their blooms to the mix. Watch for pictures later in the summer, as the color scheme should be dramatic.
In sum, I'll probably continue to spend most of my plant budget on perennials like the sea pink (aka thrift aka Armeria maritima) pictured above. So how do you rationalize your plant purchases?