More color. More flowers. These are the most common requests I hear from clients and friends who have lovely gardens full of perennials but whose gardens at certain times of the year still look a bit too green. Annuals planted in large drifts or patches is an easy and very colorful answer. And with certain annuals, they reseed themselves so it’s almost as if they are perennials…you don’t have to do much to get them to return each year.
To get this effect of a burst of color in your garden, you’ll want to try a “specimen planting”. This is an intense patch of just one type of flower. It can be many different colors of the flower but just one kind of flower gives a vivid look.
Here are my favorite specimen plantings:
Cosmos bipinnatus in a tall mix of pink, white and crimson is a favorite in gardens. They grow about waist high and don’t really need deadheading. There’s something old-fashioned and timeless about cosmos that people love to have them as regulars in their yards.
Four O-clocks. I was excited to see this new addition to the catalog this year. Not as ubiquitous as cosmos, they are a magnificent part of a garden, especially when planted somewhere you can see them outside your kitchen window when you’re preparing dinner. They really do stay closed during the day and open around 4 pm. They aren’t adapted to daylight savings time….so it might be more like 5 pm in your yard.
Zinnias. These are the annuals you wish you planted, come mid-summer. Each bloom lasts a long time, is perfect for cutting, and the specimen planting provides a tall sturdy vibrant color. Another old-time favorite for a good reason: they are great flowers.
Chinese Asters. This is another new addition to the catalog this year that inspires me. Midsummer and fall, in particular, are times that don’t have the variety of colors people desire. The perennials of this time tend to the yellow/orange range Chinese asters are a great burst of purples and pinks and creamy whites that have large flower heads that make them perfect for cutting. They’ll handle full sun, but I’ve seen asters thrive in areas with dappled shade where just a little shade enhances their color in the blazingAugust sun.
These four are my current favorites for annual specimen plantings. Add in other annuals like poppies mixed throughout the garden and maybe the calendula mix in the vegetable garden, and your garden will “pop” all season long.