Annual flowers – defined as those that last only one season – are an undeniable staple in ornamental gardening. While trees, shrubs and many perennials provide slow-growing shape and texture to your garden serving as its “backbone”, annuals help to fill in the gaps and instantly provide vibrant color and visual interest.
Annuals come in every color of the rainbow, and often supply specific hues that are only attainable by using annual bedding plants. Think of the bright red of petunias, or the deep purple of lobelias, or even the cheery orange and yellow of marigolds and you’ll soon realize that nothing quite takes the place of annual flowers.
Although annuals are flowers that only last a season, they generally require very little work to maintain. Most annual flowers are already in bloom when you purchase them at the garden center. All that is required is to dig a small hole and pop them it and you have an instant flower bed. Just water for the remainder of the season and they will continue to provide color, becoming more and more lush.
The problem for dry climate gardeners is that annuals generally require a high use of water – much more than most perennials, shrubs or trees that have adapted to our climate. But there are still ways to enjoy them, if you follow these simple guidelines.
Concentrate your plantings
By concentrating your annual flowers in one or two areas of your garden, you will not only be creating a strong visual design, you will also be able to isolate that area for extra watering. Watering by hand or installing a drip irrigation system in those beds will ensure that they get the water they need. Drip irrigation systems deliver water slowly over a long period of time, allowing the water to deeply penetrate the soil before it evaporates. Ask at your local garden center about drip irrigation systems you can install yourself.
Plant in containers for easy maintenance
Limiting the planting of annual flowers to pots and containers is a great way to make use of their vibrant colors without the extra hassle of planting them in beds. Containers can then be arranged around your yard for the best visual effect, allowing the colors of the annuals to stand out against the green of shrubbery. Planting in this way allows you to use less annuals overall while still providing the same strong visual statement. Just be sure to water frequently, as containers will dry out faster than the soil in the ground. It is even possible to connect containers to your drip irrigation system.
Take advantage of winter climate
Winter is the rainy season in most dry climates, so why not use that to your advantage? The weather is still warm to support annual flowers during the winter, and there are a large range of winter annuals available for purchase at most garden centers. An excellent annual for the cool season is pansies. If planted in the fall they will thrive well into the spring, providing you with cheerful color on those gray winter days. They will certainly benefit from the added rainfall, making maintenance of them much less of a chore for the dry climate gardener.
By following the guidelines above, even dry climate gardeners can enjoy the many benefits of annual flowers.