Gardening | 11 April 2017An Ode to Annuals and Early Spring Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Unless you’re one of the fortunate folks living in the balmy climes of some perpetually warm (and flowering) southern state, you’re probably like the rest of us at this time of year: rendered somewhat color-blind from winter’s gray skies and lack of vibrant anything in the landscape. That’s why this particular season feels very significant. Early spring is the part in The Wizard of Oz movie when Dorothy walks from black-and-white into the mesmerizing world of color: it’s the season of blooming annual flowers so bright and saturated with pigment that we have to squint a little to look directly at them. Annuals are energizing; they’re the flipped switch; they’re the prize after a long hibernation. And whether you start them from seed or buy them from your local nursery, they add ROYGBIV to your landscape, no matter where you live. Join author Vincent Simeone for a look (and raucous whoop of gratitude) at some of the vibrant colors of springtime annuals in New York & New Jersey Getting Started Garden Guide. Cosmos Bloom Period and Seasonal Color: White, pink, and red flowers from early summer until frost Mature Height × Spread: Size depends on variety but typically 3 to 4 feet × 1 to 3 feet Cosmos have long been a beloved flower in American gardens, gaining popularity during the early part of the 20th century when breeding on the plant began. Cosmos are known as an easy, reliable performer with large, showy rounded flowers ranging in color from white to pink to red. The upright, open habit and soft, fernlike foliage also make this plant a desirable addition to any garden. Although not a native, cosmos have the appearance of a wildflower with an informal, wispy look. Cosmos are a favorite of pollinators and often visited by bees and butterflies. More recent breeding has yielded a wider variety of colors and flower types as well as more compact plants. Cosmos are most effective in mixed borders, containers, and as a cut flower. Geranium Bloom Period and Seasonal Color: White, pink, red, orange, and purple flowers from spring until a hard frost Mature Height × Spread: 12 to 24 inches × 18 to 24 inches, depending on the species Annual geraniums are popular, old-fashioned plants that have been cultivated in American gardens since the 18th century. These colorful annuals (Pelargonium spp.) should not be confused with the perennial species (Geranium spp.), which are much different plants featured under the Perennials chapter in this book. The two main types of annual geranium, which can be used in containers, window boxes, hanging baskets, and flowerbeds, are zonal geranium (Pelargonium × hortorum) and ivy geranium (Pelargonium peltatum). They both offer large, rounded showy flowers ranging in color from white, pink, purple, orange, and red. The main difference is that zonal geraniums tend to be upright and bushy while ivy geraniums are more mounded and spreading like a vine or groundcover. In addition, zonal geraniums have red, circular patterns in their round, aromatic leaves. Recently some exciting new hybrids between the two species have emerged with the best attributes of both types represented. New Guinea Impatiens Bloom Period and Seasonal Color: Flowers range from white, pink, purple, orange, and red from spring until first hard frost Mature Height × Spread: 12 to 36 inches × 12 to 24 inches or more, depending on the variety New Guinea impatiens are without question one of the most popular annuals on earth. The mounded habit and myriad flower colors including white, pink, purple, orange, and red make a striking statement in the landscape. A variety of foliage colors are also offered in green, bronze, and even variegated forms. New Guinea impatiens tolerate more sun than the shade-loving impatiens but they will also tolerate a partially shaded area. Recently a devastating disease called downy mildew has caused severe damage to the common impatiens (Impatiens walleriana). New Guinea impatiens is recommended as an alternative because it’s highly resistant to this disease. With so many colors, sizes, and uses of New Guinea impatiens for sun, shade, and containers, it has become an even more desirable annual in the landscape. Petunia Bloom Period and Seasonal Color: Colorful, trumpet-like blooms from mid-spring to fall ranging in color from white, pink, rose, purple, red, yellow, and bicolors Mature Height × Spread: Up to 12 inches × 12 to 36 inches plus Petunia has real lasting power and is a household name in the gardening community. These sun-loving annuals are known for their spreading and mounded habit and ability to adapt to a variety of situations. While there are many species and complex hybrids, among my favorites are the mounding or trailing types. These garden-friendly hybrids and species are known as “fillers” and “spillers.” Some petunias are large-flowering (grandiflora), bushy types while others are smaller, profuse flowering (mulitifora), trailing types. Others are bred to offer large flowers in profusion (floribundas) and miniature petunias with continuous blooms (milliflora). The spreading types of petunias are probably the most popular and used by professionals and more novice gardeners alike. Salvia Other Name: Sage Bloom Period and Seasonal Color: Spring until fall with red, white, violet, or blue flowers depending on the species and variety Mature Height × Spread: 12 to 36 inches × 10 to 18 inches Salvia is another annual that has perennial counterparts as well. While the two groups are quite different in appearance, they all have spikey flowers and interesting foliage. Salvia in general is well known as a favorite to pollinators such as bees and butterflies and even hummingbirds. There are many species but the two noteworthy annual types covered here are Salvia splendens, scarlet sage, and Salvia farinacea, mealycup sage. Scarlet salvia does indeed have large spikes of scarlet red flowers but also comes in violet, white, and other color combinations. Mealycup salvia has tall spikes of lavender blue flowers and glossy green foliage. Salvia in general work well in a wide variety of landscape situations with a variety of plants in flowerbeds, containers, and window boxes. Zinnia Bloom Period and Seasonal Color: White, pink, red, yellow, orange and violet flowers from spring until frost Mature Height × Spread: 10 to 15 inches × 8 to 12 inches for smaller varieties; up to 3 feet × 2 feet for larger varieties Zinnia is an old-fashioned flower that has been used in American gardens for centuries. It originated in Mexico, South America, and the southwestern United States and was brought to Europe from the new world. Traditionally, zinnias were grown for their upright habit and bold flowers and often used as cut flowers but more recently plant breeding has produced lower-growing, more compact varieties that are ideal as bedding plants. Zinnia can now be found in mixed borders, containers, and even hanging baskets. One of the most common diseases of zinnias is powdery mildew, but plant breeders have also developed resistant varieties. These major improvements to this plant has allowed zinnia to be reinvented as a reliable and productive garden annual. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: Even beginner gardeners can select plants to create a stunning garden as unique as the Empire or Garden State – with expert help to ensure success! New York & New Jersey Getting Started Garden Guide is a plant selection guide, perfect for when you’re choosing plants and starting a garden in a climate that can be as challenging as it is beautiful. Choose the right plants and care for them properly, with help from an expert. Vincent Simeone, one of the area’s most highly respected and experienced gardeners, shares his deep knowledge of the region, gardens, and plants in a lively, upbeat style. The author’s top picks for plants that will thrive in this area’s winter cold, soils, coastal conditions, urban living, and other unique growing conditions guarantee success for area gardeners and home landscapers. Plants are divided into easy-to-browse chapters such as Annuals, Bulbs, Groundcovers, Ornamental Grasses, Perennials, Shrubs, Trees, Lawns, and Vines. Each plant is highlighted in its respective chapter with a large full-color photograph and tips on how, when, and where to plant. New York & New Jersey Getting Started Garden Guide doesn’t stop at plant selection. Methods for preparing soil, watering, fertilizer application, and pest management are also covered in detail. Along with the “nitty-gritty” of tending your garden, Vincent shares his inspiration for garden design, offers ways to incorporate your plants into the landscape, and names some favorite cultivars or species. His sound, practical advice is clothed in beautiful descriptions of each plant that will inspire you to get your hands dirty! Vincent Simeone (Oyster Bay, NY) is an experienced lecturer, instructor, horticultural consultant, and author of books and magazine articles. His education and training is in the field of ornamental horticulture, which he studied under world-famous professors Dr. Allan Armitage and Dr. Michael Dirr at the University of Georgia. Later, Simeone added to his education by receiving a master’s in public administration from C.W. Post Long Island University. In addition to his media appearances, Simeone is director of the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, where he hones the art of sustainable gardening by practicing what he preaches. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.