Wax Begonia

90515Oh, how breeding complicates things. Many years ago, there were only six basic types of wax begonia, Begonia semperflorens-cultorum, with three choices for floral color, and two choices for foliar color. Bloom was white, pink or red. Foliage was either green or dark bronze. Although these choices have not changed, some modern hybrids are difficult to distinguish from other species.

Wax begonia can be either a cool season annual or a warm season annual, depending on when it gets planted. It can be grown as a short term perennial if pruned back in both early spring and early autumn. By spring, winter growth is tired of the cold. By autumn, summer growth is worn out from warmth. Exposed plants can get lethally frosted in winter or roasted by sunlight in summer.

Therefore, wax begonia prefers to be somewhat sheltered. It is more tolerant of full sun exposure in summer if mixed with other annuals or perennials. Too much shade compromises bloom. Wax begonia expects richly amended soil and regular watering, and is just as happy in pots as other annuals are. Potted plants can be moved to sheltered spots when the weather gets too hot or cold.

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German Primrose

81114Just like African marigold that was featured earlier is actually Mexican, German primrose, Primula obconica, is actually Chinese. As odd as it is, the common name is an improvement from the former name of ‘poison primrose’, which was derived from the potentially irritating sap of the unimproved species before it was bred to be less toxic, as well as more colorful and prolific in bloom.

Here where winters are mild, German primrose is a short term perennial that is mostly grown as a cool season annual. Most of us do not bother to keep them alive as their foliage deteriorates in warm spring and summer weather. It is easier to plant new ones next autumn. They want rich soil and regular watering until rainy weather takes over. Deadheading promotes subsequent bloom.

Foliage should not get much higher than six inches. Flowers stand a few inches higher, and can get almost as high as a foot. Individual flowers can be as wide as an inch, and they bloom with several others in domed trusses that might be a few inches wide. Bloom can be white or pastel hues of pink, lavender, blue, peachy orange, salmon, rose or soft maroon, some with white edges.

Dwarf Carnation

81017The three most popular specie of Dianthus are sweet William, garden pink and carnation. Sweet William and garden pink are light duty perennial bedding plants that are often grown as annuals. Carnation blooms are more familiar as fragrant cut flowers than as home garden flowers. Then there is dwarf carnation, Dianthus caryophyllus, that combines the best characteristics of all three.

Unlike the varieties of carnation that are grown for cut flowers on long stems, dwarf carnations do not need to be staked. Their compact growth gets only about five or six inches tall, and not much wider; so they are delightful summer and autumn annuals, or short term perennials like sweet William and pink. Yet, the two inch wide flowers are fragrant and as colorful as cut flower carnations.

The double or semi-double flowers can be white, pale yellow, pale orange, maroon, scarlet, red, peach, rose, or most popularly, various hues of pink. Bloom begins late in spring and continues through autumn and almost until winter. Stray flowers can bloom anytime. The narrow leaves are slightly bluish green, with an almost rubbery texture. Deadheading keeps well blooming plants tidy.

Cool Season Annuals Are Next

81017thumbGardening is not always fun. After diligently tending to warm season vegetables through spring and summer, it eventually becomes necessary to pull them up to relinquish space for cool season vegetables that grow through autumn and winter. It likely would be less unpleasant to wait for them to succumb to frost, but by that time, it would be getting late for the incoming vegetable plants.

Removing warm season annuals and bedding plants is just as necessary, and might be just as unpleasant. The only consolation is that the incoming cool season annuals and bedding plants are likely to be blooming well as they get installed. Even though they take a while to mature, there is no time without at least some degree of color. Warm season annuals may be tired by now anyway.

Just like cool season vegetable plants, the various cool season annuals and bedding plants appreciate an early start so that they can begin to disperse roots while the soil is still somewhat warm. Only those that dislike warmth should wait. Cyclamen and flowering cabbage and kale can be planted as late as winter. Flowering cabbage and kale might even bolt if they get too warm too soon.

Pansy, viola, sweet William, stock, Iceland poppy, calendula and various primroses are all seasonable now. They should be happy to bloom until they too need to be replaced by annuals for the following season, several months later. Chrysanthemum, marigold and a few other autumn annuals are short term annuals that bloom excellently through autumn, but are not likely to bloom later.

Just like most of the cool season vegetables, most of the cool season annuals should be planted as small seedlings in cell pack. Chrysanthemum and many of the primroses, as well as cyclamen and flowering cabbage and kale that come later, should actually be planted as four inch potted plants. Needless to say, some of these are expensive relative to their respectively limited bloom seasons. Seed for nasturtium and alyssum can be sown directly into the garden. Nasturtiums seedlings in cell packs are expensive and do not transplant well.

Annuals Change With The Seasons

50930thumbLike it or not, the warm season annuals that were so flashy all through spring and summer will eventually need to be replaced with cool season annuals to provide color through winter. It is always unpleasant to pull up the annuals of a previous season while they are still blooming, even if they are already getting scruffy and discolored. It is actually easier if they got roasted by recent warmth.

Some warm season annuals last longer than others. Many are actually perennials that can be overplanted with new cool season annuals as they get cut back or go dormant through their ‘off’ season. Some cur back perennials may not survive through winter; but those that do can regenerate next spring, just as the cool season annuals that obscured them all winter are finishing.

Wax begonias, for example, are warm season annuals that can continue to bloom until they get frosted. Where sheltered from frost, they only need to be cut back because partial defoliation exposes knobby bare stems. If they can be hidden by pansies or violas through their bare phase, they never need to be removed, and some will be happy to regenerate in spring.

Conversely, cyclamen, sweet William, chrysanthemum and some primroses are cool season annuals that have the potential to survive under the lush growth of warm season annuals next summer; but that is a topic for later. (Some people are allergic to primroses like poison oak.) Iceland poppy and ornamental cabbage and kale are not so perennial, but are quite colorful through winter.

Alyssum and nasturtium really are annuals that do not survive much more than one year. However, they can perform through summer where sheltered from heat, or through winter where sheltered from cold. In ideal situations, their self sown seedling replace deteriorating older plants, so that they can perform throughout the year. Nasturtium should be planted as seed, not from cell packs.

Calendula is a popular cool season annual early in the season, but may not last through the end of winter. Yet it is popular because it is so excellent through autumn. Chrysanthemums are even flashier, although they are often replaced as soon their first bloom phase finishes.

Start Cool Season Annuals Early

30925Twice a year, it becomes necessary to discuss the unpleasantries of pulling up the flowering annuals (as well as vegetable plants) of one season, to relinquish space for those of the next season. Just a few months ago, cool season annuals got replaced with warm season annuals. Now, those same warm season annuals will get replaced with cool season annuals for the next few months.

It is unpleasant because the outgoing annuals are probably still blooming when it is time for them to go. It might be easier to wait for cool season annuals to get roasted by hot weather, or for warm season annuals to get frosted. Unfortunately, by that time, the incoming annuals would be at a disadvantage. Hot or cold weather is also uncomfortable for plants that are not yet established.

Sure, warm season annuals like warmth, but only after they have sufficiently dispersed their roots to sustain their growth during warm weather. This is most efficiently accomplished while the weather is still mild earlier within their season. Cool season annuals likewise do not mind cool weather, but do not grow as well as they do during the warmer weather earlier within their season.

This is why it is better to plant pansy, viola, sweet William, Iceland poppy, stock, calendula and the various primroses earlier rather than later if possible. There is no exact science here. A forecast for warm weather certainly justifies delay. Cyclamen and ornamental cabbage and kale are a bit more sensitive to warmth, so could wait a bit longer. They grow well through cold weather anyway.

Chrysanthemum, alyssum and nasturtium are odd ones. Chrysanthemum, although perennial, is most often planted as a short term autumn annual while it is already blooming or is just about to bloom. It rarely gets a second chance if it finishes bloom before winter. Alyssum and nasturtium can be both warm and cool season annuals. They only gets replanted this time of year because individual plants perform through one season or the other, but probably not both. Nasturtium should be grown from seed.

Snapdragon

80523They are short term annuals in spring or autumn. Where winters are cold, they may last from spring through autumn. Where summers are hot, they may last from autumn through spring. So what are snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus, here? They can be either or both, depending on where and when they get planted. For most of us, they are a cool season annuals that finish before summer.

Although they prefer to be in full sun, the warmth of such exposure is what limits their practicality through summer. They bloom a bit less in partial shade, but are more likely to last through summer if kept cool, particularly in an innately cool microclimate. Like many annuals, they want rich soil, and regular watering. Because they are susceptible to rust and mildew, foliage should be kept dry.

Snapdragon blooms in white and many cheery hues of yellow, orange, red and pink. Some of the older varieties, particularly those developed for the cut flower industry, can get very tall, and might almost reach low eaves! Modern garden varieties are shorter and fluffier. The biggest are less than four feet tall, and less than a foot and a half wide. Deteriorating flowers should be pruned away.

Annuals Come And Annuals Go

71025thumbJust like warm season vegetable plants in the vegetable garden, flowering warm season annuals get replaced this time of year. Although the weather is still warm, cool season annuals should be planted now so they can disperse roots before the weather gets too much cooler. Except for a few short term annuals and perennials, most should perform until the weather gets warm next spring.

Pansy, viola, Iceland poppy, sweet William, calendula, stock and the various primroses should get down to the business of blooming rather efficiently, and hopefully compensate for the removal of deteriorating warm season annuals. Ornamental cabbage and kale, as well as cyclamen, can be a bit later because they are a bit more sensitive to warmth, but not slowed much by cool weather.

Nasturtium and alyssum can work as either or both warm and cool season annuals. Both are annuals, so individual plants do not last more than a few months. In hot spots, they may perform well in winter, but then get roasted in summer. In cold spots, they may do exactly the opposite. In the right situations, they self sow and bloom all year. Tired old plants should be groomed out if unsightly.

Chrysanthemums are the most prominent of seasonal color for autumn, and come in all sorts of colors that are ideal for an autumn palette. They are actually perennials that are grown as annuals. Unfortunately, they are usually grown as very short term annuals, that are allowed to bloom only once, and then replaced with something more wintry, like cyclamen or ornamental cabbage or kale.

Like cool season vegetable plants, most flowering cool season annuals should be planted as small plants in cell packs. Chrysanthemum, as well as cyclamen and ornamental cabbage and kale that get planted afterward, are the exceptions that should be planted as four inch potted plants, but they are expensive anyway. Primroses can be planted from either cell packs or four inch pots. (Primroses can cause a serious skin allergy, just from contact.) Nasturtium and alyssum should be grown from seed sown early.