Annuals in the Garden – Players in the Long Game

Long Season Annual Plants

We’ve had a pretty spectacular autumn — it’s been (mostly) dry, sunny, and warm. Every morning when I wake up, I look out the window and say a little, “Really?! Again?! Thank you!” to the universe.

As a result, some annual plants are still putting on a really good show. But it seems that’s about to end as we have much cooler temps and plenty of rain ahead. So, I thought I’d celebrate some plants that are looking good until the very end.

First up is this purple nicotiana — it’s been putting out wonderfully smelling flowers since I planted it in mid-May.  It’s definitely on its last legs, but you can’t ask for more than a plant that smells amazing, looks great in a vase, and puts out flower after flower for half a year.

Oh, Coleus.  I love those harlequin, fuzzy leaves.  It’s a plant I purchase every year and tuck into containers & gaps in the border beds.  I usually wait until June to plant it, because it hates cold, wet ground, and it’s simultaneously loved by slugs, who are very active in Spring.  I have yet to overwinter it inside, but I might try this year.

This lovely creature was purchased mid-summer to replace a plant that wasn’t working in that spot. It’s a Strobilanthes dyerianus (Persian Shield) and it still looks amazing without missing a beat.

And this little guy is a favorite: Lobularia maritima (Sweet Alyssum).  I plant it every year.  The bees love it, it comes in a variety of colors, and it’s relatively bulletproof.  I’ve loved this purple variety this year, and I’ve been using it as a ground cover to knit together sunny borders throughout the garden.  This photo is from the parking strip, where it received insane sun and lack of water this summer & just look at it!

And I saved the best for last.  This Ricinus communis (Castor Oil Plant) was planted as seed in June, and now it’s half way as tall as our house!  I’ve planted this before, but never in this spot.  This is the warmest, sunniest part of our garden.  It’s a corner where the front porch meets the house and it faces southwest.  It also gets the benefit of the exhaust from a gas fireplace, which keeps it warmer over there as temperatures cool down.  I’m waiting for a permanent planting there until the house gets painted, and I’m absolutely doing this again next year if we need more time before we get that done.  If I’m lucky, it’ll set seed!

Kate McMillan

Author Kate McMillan

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