Roll Out the Color!

   Written by on April 24, 2014 at 4:35 pm

 The race is on! The dash for purchasing the brightest, most colorful annuals is in full swing. Following are a few thoughts and cautions.

logo - a walkKeep your eye out for bargains. Young plants in six- or eight-packs of the same variety are usually available at low prices. But choose carefully. They should be well rooted but not necessarily blooming. In fact, just look for healthy plants with lots of buds. You might as well enjoy the blooms at home a few days later instead of the blooms fading as soon as you get them home.

If you’re in the market for something to hide a fence or adorn a trellis, morning glories, scarlet runner beans, black-eyed Susan vine, sweet peas and hyacinth bean will do the trick. That black-eyed Susan vine seems to be particularly popular in nurseries these days.

It’s always nice to bring color to shady spots in the yard. Ever faithful impatiens, nasturtiums and bluebells will thrive in the shade.

For pots and window boxes, choose bushy or trailing annuals. Petunias, marigolds, verbenas, lobelia and heliotrope are perfect. Add in a fuschia for brilliant color and texture.

When the annual bug gets the best of you and you get home with more plants than pots, look to the empty spaces between trees and foundation plantings. While you’re waiting for your perennials to bloom, fill in gaps with annuals. Since they bloom and die within a single season, there’s no need to dig them up.

Massing a single color will create a unified effect, more of a statement. Pastel colors like white, pink, lavender and yellow show up best in the early morning and evening light. Bright colors lend more heat to a space; mix oranges and reds and deep yellows.

I chose one young hardy plant this year that I’ve never tried before. Resting comfortably in a big pot on the back steps is a larkspur. Supposedly it will withstand cold nights and even some frost. Good thing, the way the weather has been lately.

The larkspur actually belongs to the buttercup family – Ranunculaceae – but there the similarity ends. Unlike the simple buttercup, the flowers of the larkspur are as complex as those of an orchid. The flowers appear in an irregularly shaped vertical grouping along the upper end of the main stalk. It prefers cool, moist summers. Moist we are, cool we are not, so I may have to rethink the positioning of the larkspur pot.

Larkspurs come in a wide range of colors including red, pink, violet and white. I honestly don’t know what color I have, but if it does well this summer I might try sowing some seeds this fall. I have a row of foxglove that has done well in a mostly shady spot next to a fence and larkspur would be a good compliment, taking a ninety-degree turn around the fence post.

A word of caution here, though. The larkspur plant is toxic. The stem and seeds contain alkaloids. If I plant them near the foxglove I will create a “stay away” zone for New Dog, and for a yard that will have children playing around, neither plant is a good choice.

We’ll see how the experiment goes. Why don’t you try something new this year? There are lots of options out there. Maybe something exotic. There are about 375,000 species of plants in the world. I bet you can find something new.

Leave a Reply