Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cold tolerant annuals

Tooling around town, I noticed quite a few gardens with salvia, begonias and marigolds lining walkways and garden beds.  It makes me exceptionally angry that growers encourage homeowners to purchase tender annuals long before the final frost of the year.  Gardening is a continual education process.  Many people simply don't realize that annuals cannot withstand the cool soil temperatures and frost of the Maryland spring.

With that said, let's look at a list of annuals that can tolerate cool weather to provide some spring color in the garden.  These plants probably won't survive the summer without some assistance provided by you.  But if you're chomping at the bit to tidy up and beautify the landscape, give these plants a try.

Pansies offer an array of colors to brighten the spring garden.  These tough little plants just might last through the summer with plenty of water and a slightly cooler location.  For now, plant pansies in a sunny or partial sun site and enjoy the show.  Clip blooms back for arrangements and prune foliage to keep the plant bushy. [Image Credit: Kevin Rosseel, Morguefile]


Snapdragons also thrive in cool weather and can add immediate interest to the landscape.  Add a few to the planters on your porch or patio while you wait for the trees to flesh out with foliage.  Snapdragons will last through the summer with regular pruning, plenty of water and regular pruning.  These plants come in an array of solid colors as well as variegated flowers like the pinks/yellow/purple combination shown in the photo.  [Image Credit: Xandert, Moreguefile]

Verbena can tolerate the cooler temperatures of spring.  This trailing plant comes in red, peach, white and salmon to add just the right touch of color to the spring garden. Verbena grows to about 14 inches and is considered a half-hardy annual.  Verbena can be used in the garden and in containers.  Plant verbena in the sun to really see the full production of flowers on this beautiful plant. [Image Credit: mrmac04, Morguefile]

Remember that all annuals benefit from a good turning over of the garden soil.  Add peat moss to the mixture as you loosen the top 8 inches of soil with a shovel.  Cultivation allows annual roots to spread easily through the soil for better establishment in the garden.

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