“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.” ~Ruth Stout
I am a cottage gardener. I love color and layers and stone paths. With the concern of the drought in FresYes, cottage gardening can seem impossible. Our climate does not lend itself to light, airy, and long blooming. We think “drought-tolerant” can only mean one thing: Cactus. Now, don’t get me wrong, succulents play their part in my garden as well. But I still would like to incorporate my cottage style without running the sprinklers non-stop to do it. One way I like to do that is with container gardening with annuals.
The first thing you need to know about annuals is: do not be afraid! Clients are always telling me they don’t want to be replanting constantly. My recommendation is to do annuals twice a year: October and April. With the upcoming heat (and ongoing drought), we need to be that much more mindful of what we are planting. Be sure to choose wisely and pick those annuals that can stand up to the heat.
-Angelonia or “Summer Snapdragons”
You used to be able to only find these at local garden centers, but now even the box stores are carrying them. (Not that I endorse shopping there 😉 ) These tiny flowers pack a big punch, carrying your garden well into October with outstanding blooms and size. They come in pretty pastels of blue, purple, pink, and white.
Always thought to be a shade annual, begonias come in a wide range of varieties. While most can only handle our heat in the shade, be sure to try ‘Bronze-Leaf’ begonias for full sun exposure. Adding color to your garden in pink, red, and white, begonias will even make it through the frost of most winters. A good cutting back in early Spring and they’re ready to grow through the summer and fall.
A staple in dry, hot gardens, vinca can withstand the valley heat like no other! Range of colors include red, pink, white, and even purples and black. Vincas also come in a trailing variety that make excellent ground covers or spillers out of pots and baskets. They do not like to be wet and require zero maintenance once planted. Plant in April and enjoy until frost.
Another valley favorite because of their love for heat. Zinnias can completely dry out before being watered again. They come in a few different sizes and varieties, so you are able to choose from sprawling bushey types to tall and straight that grow up to four feet high! Colors are red, orange, yellow, pink, and white.
So many colors, textures, and heights! Grown for it’s foliage, coleus adds color all season long. It is both a shade/sun annual, offering you more options to use it in your containers.
Sold as an annual and perennial, Blue Salvia is excellent through the summer. Although referred to as “blue”, it is really more of a purple. It will most likely make it through the frost, but if you buy them in pony packs, it is no real sacrifice if they do not return. Plant them for height in your mixed borders and watch them go!
-Sweet Potato Vine
This fast growing annual cannot be beat for use as a trailing vine or ground cover from Spring-frost. Fill a hanging basket or let it spill from a window box. Carried in variegated and solid varieties. The lime green is an excellent stand out in the garden.
While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it gives you a great start of knowing what to look for while shopping at the nursery. Once you figure out what you like and what kind of exposure you need to plant for, start thinking about filling containers. Container gardening is not only a great place to start for beginner gardeners, but it also allows you to control where your water is going. Create an atmosphere by mixing pot sizes and carrying the same plant through each one. Use this tip while planting: thriller, spiller, filler. Your “thriller” will be your height. “Spiller” is anything trailing over the sides. And “filler” will be those plants that add softness and fullness to the combination. Don’t let the drought keep you from enjoying your garden. Sometimes we just need a new perspective. Happy gardening and please share what you have planted in your containers!