I’ve been away for a bit to eastern Ohio and then immediately on to Wisconsin, so I’ve been playing catch-up with the produce rather than writing since our return. Immediately upon turning into the driveway, it was obvious that the gardens had changed while I was traveling. Since those first warm days of spring, the reliable perennials have been carrying the load. Of course none of them stay on the stage very long. Most of them have short, but memorable performances and coming one right after another or sometimes overlapping to form an ensemble, they are deserving of applause. When I left, the daylilies were stealing the show with a strong chorus of colors, heights and forms. Now the annuals are the star attractions, and I am so thankful for them.
While most people are planting more perennials, I still count on my annuals to carry the show, especially from now until frost (usually early October.) Oh, they’ve been contributing a lot already as bit players here and there as the perennials had the spotlight, polishing up their acts, gaining in volume and gradually getting bigger parts but now they are the headliners. They will deserve that top billing and attention for weeks and weeks to come (as long as I keep them deadheaded!) Here are the stars of the current show: Zinnia “Profusion Double Click Deep Salmon.” These are much, much prettier than my photo. The leaves weren’t blue when I compressed it! They are really workhorses in my garden, blooming from May to frost with very little care. They are almost self-cleaning, so require very little deadheading on my part. I use them at the front of the border, as they get about 10-12″ tall and form graceful, fully filled mounds. They come in a variety of colors and are easy from seed. Next are my beloved snapdragons. I’ve praised these “Liberty Bronze” snaps before, but they deserve even more! This year, with cooler temperatures and abundant rain, they have continued putting on a show since I planted them in late April. The Liberty series has nearly every color in the rainbow, and are very easy from seed, but start them early (late January for me) for opening acts. Our current weather has also been good for the nasturtiums, violas and calendulas, all of which are everyday bloomers in the potager. I decided to add bits of blue here and there in the garden, blue being a partner across the color wheel for orange. I chose this tall “Blue Horizon” ageratum, and it has been a wonder, blooming early and long. It really is blue-blue, not purplish and makes a great cut flower. Just coming onto the stage, and still playing a supporting role is the self-seeded cleome, “Helen Campbell.” As it gets taller and more abundant, cleome will be getting a larger role. The same applies to the tall zinnias, which are just getting off to a good start. Before you get the wrong impression, I must add that all annuals are not as talented as those I’ve shown so far. I was very disappointed in Zinnia “Decor” which was supposed to be a blend of orange zinnias and lime-green zinnias. Most of them were (horror of horrors!) like this so they were cut from the act!!! So were many of the “Pixie Sunshine” which were supposed to be dwarf (they were) and a mixture of white, yellow, and orange but in reality were magenta, red, or (gasp!) another horrible pink! Having failed their audition, I won’t be growing either of those again. And also disappointing has been the “Perfume Lime” nicotiana which looked good early on, but seems to be getting very tired as the season progresses. To get star billing in my garden, a plant must have endurance as well as beauty. So, I’ll be scouring the seed catalogs over the winter, searching for some new talent. Maybe I’ll find some at the upcoming Garden Writers’ annual conference, a great for talent scouts like me!