Saturday, 29 August 2015

Annuals: To Plant or Not to Plant

Many years ago I started gardening with annuals, planting from seedling punnets. At least whatever died hadn't cost much.

Slowly I tried perennials, then shrubs. We were blessed, already,with a marvellous scarlet-flowering gum tree and a shade-giving walnut tree. Shrubs and trees are scarily permanent to a new gardener.

Later I joined a garden club full of the cognoscenti, and any annuals but the rarest were frowned upon, ever so gently. (There's a good reason for this: the gardens full of colour are rather like a meal of only butter and sugar; great gardens have masses of green too: the meat and vegetables. Wall-to-wall flowers can be indigestable.) But my garden is, of course, for my enjoyment, not theirs.

My new silver-and-raspberry bed is a bit bare this winter, not withstanding the 2 new Guichenotia (pink winter flowers on a silver-grey leaved shrub, a near-perfect match) towards the back, and several winter roses (Helleborus), some `red'-flowered, some with silver-traced leaves.

My love affair with perennials from the late 1980's will, I fear, never fade; I just love their fresh new growth each spring; it's like a dose of ice (I imagine), a hit, a natural high as the plants surprise, each time, with their woosh of wondrous growth and fascinating flowers and foliage.

The bed is a little bare just now, but I think next winter will be better; I'll prune the silver Tanacetum and wormwood less severely; and there'll be more evergreen cover - cranesbills, purple-leaf Queen Anne's Lace, dark-flowered Bergenia. (They'll be bigger clumps, or i'll have divided them and there'll be more plants.)

So when I saw some bright, near-ruby Primula  I thought of this bed; and yes, the 3 clumps look just right. (The nurseries were also selling a hectic pink form that made me turn green.) The plants will need pulling out towards the end of spring but this is, I find, easier than cutting perennials.

I like a 4-season garden so I might add Primula every year to this bed; but it's interesting how far a little bright colour can go, even on the coldest, wettest days. So even though it's tempting to add another couple, maybe 3 clumps is enough.

Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria. (

No comments:

Post a Comment