Good habits Taking advantage of shape height and structure

Contrary to popular belief, not all annuals are little bloom-studded muffins. Hardly! Try to install annuals with a range of plant habits — variety is the spice! Check out Table 6-1 for some of your options.

Table 6-1 Appearance and Habits of Annuals




Low growers

These annuals can create a carpet in your flowerbeds, not only covering open ground or making a "skirt" at the base of taller plants but also generally spilling over and softening the edges while adding welcome interest and color.

Fan flower, sweet alyssum, million bells, and portulaca




Spiky growers

Spires of pretty flowers, whether loose and airy or dense and commanding, are wonderful punctuation marks in a display. They break up monotony, standing out from the crowd even as they keep the eye moving.

Snapdragon, larkspur, and salvia

Petite, compact annuals

These little cuties pack a lot of appeal into a small space, making them perfect for containers (small pots as well as window boxes or big, deck-side planter boxes), edgings out in the garden proper, or in any spot that needs reliable coverage that'll be viewed at close range.

Trailing lobelia, diascia, small pansies, and nierembergia


The mainstay of many garden displays, plants with a lower-growing, rounded habit are valuable because they fill in their allotted space so well and are handsome when viewed from any angle. Closely planted, they're excellent for edging or masses of dependable color.

California poppy, geranium, impatiens, nasturtium, and French marigold

Big annuals

Count on an impressive show and lots of color — quickly! This sort of annual is wonderful for fence-side, along a wall of the house or garage, or in your entryway garden.

Sunflower, cleome, zinnia, and flowering tobacco

Great annuals that range from small to tall

These annuals have such a range in height that no matter what your needs, you can probably find one that fits.

Zinnia and marigold

Leafy plants

Don't forget foliage! So-called foliage annuals may flower, but their main attraction is their handsome, colorful leaves. Rimmed, variegated, striped, splashed, or dappled; red, maroon, white, yellow, cream, or chartreuse — you can find all sorts of variety and opportunities to make exciting, stand-out displays with these plants.


Here are some good ideas for making annual diversity work for you in your garden displays:

1 Small in front, medium in the middle, and tall in back: This tried-and-true guideline works because plants don't block one another from view, and the stepping-up effect simply looks great and adds dimension to your flowerbed. It makes a display look full and is especially effective in small or tight spaces. Thus, for island beds (in the middle of your lawn, say) or containers, you want small plants on the edges, then medium plants, and finally tall ones in the center. See Figure 6-3 for an idea of how to vary heights in your flowerbed.

i Repetition and balance: Plant so that one plant habit (or form) recurs at regular intervals in the display. This touch supplies continuity and naturally looks pleasing. Vary what happens between if you wish.

i Simplicity: The smaller the area is, the more important it is to avoid clutter. Use several or many of one kind of plant, together. Or stick to one sort of plant habit but vary the types of plants or the colors.

Gardeners usually don't combine annuals with perennials because when frost kills the annuals, big holes appear in the planting. However, annuals are great to add among smaller, newly planted perennials to provide fast color the first season. The following year, the perennials come into their own and fill the space once occupied by the annuals.

Figure 6-3:

You can add dimension to a flowerbed by planting short annuals in the front and tall ones in the rear.

Figure 6-3:

You can add dimension to a flowerbed by planting short annuals in the front and tall ones in the rear.

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