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21 best perennials & annuals.

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There are as many tastes in the world as there are varieties of flowers, so it is a matter of preference as to which flowers are considered to be the "best" perennials and annuals across the landscape.

Perennials are described as plants that disappear during winter and reappear the following spring. A perennial palette, adapted to your garden, can turn a yard into a visual beauty with a diversity of colors, bloom seasons, textures, shapes, sizes and forms. There are tens of thousands of plants to choose among for perennial pleasure. The list is infinitesimal and choices can be daunting, but no matter the soil type, light conditions or climate, there are perennials that will satisfy everyone's horticultural landscapes. Most perennials thrive in zones 3 through 8, blooming every year for landscape satisfaction.

Consider the family of asters, which are considered indispensible in the sunny landscape of cottage gardens, wildflower gardens and typical flower beds during both summer and fall seasons. With over 600 species and thousands of selections, ranging in size from six inches to eight-feet tall, all have small, daisy-like flowers, usually with yellow centers in shades of blue, lavender, purple, pink, red or white. The small pointed foliage adds to the dimensions of the blooms. Asters can be propagated in spring and planted in well-drained soil. They grow in cool summer climates and require winter mulch. Disease-resistant varieties offer low maintenance and can be used as cut flowers.

Another favorite perennial is the daylily (Hemerocallis), one of the most ubiquitous perennials in the American landscape. Daylilies are easy to grow and extremely tolerant of location, which is why more than 30,000 species dot American landscapes. Sizes range from 12 inches to over six feet, with flowers measuring from two to eight inches across on leafless stalks. Daylilies bloom in spring and summer, offering a variety of colors from yellow to orange to burnt red. Planting daylilies in full to partial sun in clay, sandy or even alkaline soils will please this bloomer.

Hostas offer low maintenance, long life and neat symmetrical mounds of leaves that offer textures and colors that spread among thousands of cultivars ranging from six inches to over three feet across. Dark green, blue green or yellow green variegated surfaces vary with veined, wavy edged or puckered leaves. Hostas bear spikes of fragrant white, purple, or lavender in summer or fall. This green speckled, spotted, striped or vibrant green beauty withstands hot days and warm summer nights as it grows in moist well-drained soil. Hostas can be propagated and moved without interfering with the growth pattern. They make great borders or can be mingled with other flowers as a primary attention-getter.

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To spruce up the winter garden and add color to the landscape during periods of horticultural boredom, a bed of Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis), will renew the spirit of winter doldrums. The Lenten rose will withstand freezing temperatures, snow and ice in most climates. Also known as Christmas rose, this relative of the buttercup family offers white, faint yellow, and green to almost black nodding flowers for more than a month, usually into early spring. When combined with winter jasmine and the fragrance of daphne, the Lenten rose creates a showy bed of wonderland.

Coral bells (Heuchera) boast 70 species, many playing a major role in raised garden beds, textured borders and bouquets. This unique plant begins blooming in early June and doesn't stop until the end of August. Coral bells offers the gardener a variety of wrinkled purple leaves and graceful spikes of tiny flowers from late spring to late summer, appearing frothy. Often called rock geranium, this perennial was cited as the best perennial in 1991 and is still preferred by gardeners. The plant thrives in well-drained alkaline soil and full sun. When planted with ornamental grasses or Artemesia, Coral Bells offer colorful edges or borders. Cut back the stems for a second showy season.

Hydrangea have become popular plants because of their "mopheads" of blue or pink bracts, the color determined by soil acidity and the presence of aluminum in the soil--on chalky soils even the best blue cultivars will turn pink unless treated with aluminum sulfate. Hydrangeas are woodland plants in their natural habitat, but are grown feverishly in urban gardens, on farms and in the wild, displaying their true colors in acidic soil. When planted in more alkaline soil, hydrangeas offer pink-colored "mopheads" that resemble blooming colorful snowballs. This plant adds luscious color and makes a determined statement when planted in rows along the sides or backyards, even in fields of homes and farms.

Easy to grow, daffodils are an early season bloomer and one of the first and most popular harbingers of spring. This flower is an excellent planting choice for a beginning garden, with at least 50 species to choose from. Many uses including bedding, cutting, naturalizing and forcing are attributes of this multi-faceted plant, which requires full sun and plenty of moisture. Daffodil bulbs are best planted from mid-October to November and can be dug up and divided every three to five years. A rule of thumb is to allow the plant to dry normally and halt watering so the bulb can store food for the following year's bloom. When planted en masse, daffodils welcome the rebirth of the landscape with bright petals and green stalks.

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Roses tell a story from hundreds of years past, but the most recent disease resistant rose preferred and selected as one of the best perennials is the stunning flower power of the KnockOut[R] rose. This hardy bloomer is self-cleaning so no pinching is required. A variety of colors adorn this thorny flower, which can grow up to four feet tall during its drought-resistant life. It loves water and requires mulch at the base. The aroma of the KnockOut[R] rose is part of the magic and luscious entry into the garden or as a cut flower in arranged bouquets.

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Whether white or yellow, daisies (Bellis perennis) appear as fuzzy faces surrounded with fan-shaped outer skins of red, white or pink petals. They are prolific and stand up to six inches high as they thrive in rich moist soil and have a track record of success when planted in or around a rock garden, an edging in a cool environment or a grouping, which bloom exotically and return each year with almost twice as many flowers. Grown near the ever-popular fragrant peony, the landscape becomes a profusion of blooms.

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Among a varied palette of color, a favorite is purple. Spiderwort (Tradescantia) or purple heart (Setcreasea purpurea) provides a tender trailing ground cover that thrives in full sun and reveals a true deep rich shade of natural purple. Violet-purple leaves produce pink petite flowers of one-to half-an-inch in size during spring and summer. They grow best in full sun and bloom mid-summer and early fall. Tips of the stem can be propagated in water or moist soil. Given the right conditions this plant grows 18 inches tall and 16 inches wide, covering an area that blends with several other bloomers.

Balloon flowers (Chinese Bellflower) fascinate young and old by the bouncy and bright balloon-shaped flower buds that open to reveal broadly bell-shaped flowers. Plants are long lived and require little care. They thrive in full sun to partial shade and are best when grown in groups of three plants. These heavy bloomers are the easiest to grow among perennials and they bloom in profusion in mid to late summer when many other perennials are beginning to fade. They are carefree growers offering shades of blue, pink and white. Balloon flowers are cold hardy and seldom bothered by pests. They make attractive cuttings and grow well in cottage gardens, around pond areas and in raised garden beds. The purple veins and yellow stamens bear two-to-three feet cuplike blossoms and 12-inch wide foliage. Balloon flowers can be seen growing in cottage gardens and in natural settings.

Sunflowers can be either perennial or annual, depending on the species and the zones in which they are grown. Native perennial sunflowers explode in a blaze of yellow colon The face of a sunflower plant contains up to 3,000 individual flowers. Sunflowers can easily reach six- to eight-feet-tall in a sunny location. Gardeners use sunflowers to beautify the garden and feed the birds. Farmers plant sunflowers to attract "good" pests in alternate rows across tobacco farms. The sunflower is noted for its foliate, with delicate narrow linear leaves lining blue-gray stems. Sunflowers are pretty drought tolerant once established.

Annuals Fun to grow and easy to arrange, thousands of annuals come into bloom quickly and disappear during winter. The best annuals are packed with flower power, and often produce blossoms longer and stronger than many perennials.

One of the first annual flowers to bloom in spring is often the pansy, which is so hardy that it can be planted in the fall in much of the United States. The cheery "face" in the center of the bloom keeps on giving pleasure with a huge color range. Pansies like sun where they often perform as short-lived perennials. Pansies grow well in rich, well-drained soil and make excellent cut flowers.

Among the oldest of plants, chrysanthemums are thought of in terms of annuals, although there are several perennial species offering dozens of species that resemble daisy-like flowers in a variety of colors, except blue. Chrysanthemums require full sun, moist well-drained soil and are easily transplanted. Stem cuttings can be propagated and set out in spring.

Hibiscus fills summer days with large, usually single, five-petaled flowers, bringing a tropical look to the landscape. Annual hibiscus seeds may be sown outdoors. Hibiscus tolerates heat in summer as long as they are kept well-watered. When planted early in the spring,

after the last frost, impatiens will flourish for several months. More than 1,000 species of this popular bedding plant offer one of the best varieties in the garden with wide ranges of pinks, purples, whites and red as they intensify throughout most of the growing season. Dark green foliage set off by vibrant single or double petals become a nice neighbor to hostas. As a colorful border for flowerbeds, window boxes, mounds, tree borders and urns. They require afternoon shade or east-facing locations.

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Celosia is a brightly colored tropical plant grown for its exotically shaped flower heads. One form is crested and has lightly convoluted flowers; the other is plume shaped with loose and feathery blooms. Dwarf celosia grows six inches high and is used for borders and edgings whereas taller plants work well in the back of a border and also make good cut flowers. Often referred to as cockscomb, the flower heads are usually bright red, pink or yellow with cream, apricot, orange, gold or salmon varieties. Celosia prefers living in full sun and well-drained soil. Celosia is heat-tolerant and will add color to the garden until frost.

Petunia offers 30 species of bright colored flowers and small fuzzy leaves which may bloom consistently in well-drained sandy or dry soil and can be grown as a spreading or a cascading plant used in beds, borders, containers, hanging baskets or window boxes. Double blooms can be solid, speckled, starred or splashed with stripes and edged in white. Petunias come in two classes: grandiflora and multiflora.

Grandiflora have flowers up to five inches across; multifloras produce greater numbers of smaller blossoms and are more disease resistant.

Portulaca or moss rose, as it is frequently called, is a low growing annual favorite. It hugs the ground allowing plants to grow four to six inches tall with fleshy stems and leaves and generally showy flowers that close up at night, in shade and on cloudy days. The plant is best used in edgings, borders, as ground covers or in containers. Portulaca offers a plethora of mixed vibrant red-purple and orange-yellow flowers. It is a low maintenance plant.

Sage is a large genus of plants, known as salvia, and offers two-lipped red, purplish, blue, white, or rose-colored flowers which can be used in both flower gardens and herb gardens. Sage blooms are great for mass plantings, beds, borders, containers and as cut flowers. There are several varieties of sage and salvia, the more popular are the blue and purple colors often referred to as anise.

Capsicum are ornamental peppers that are popular when used in beds, borders and containers. They are easily grown from seed and yield vibrant colors well into the winter season. The spectacularly colored varieties of the capsicum family yield lemon, lemon-yellow, orange and reddish-purple. Capsicum like to be kept warm in full sun, and moist soil. The plant is frost-tender and will easily fade in lower temperatures. They are easily grown from seed and can be started indoors. After the last winter frost, set the seedlings outside and watch them speedily yield captivating colors as small peppers appear at the ends of green stems.

As with perennials, annuals flourish when planted in the proper location and in the soil which best suits the growth requirements. Be sure to check out the new species as well as more colorful blooms that are offered in both perennial and annual selections to meet the needs and space of the garden.

PHOTOGRAPHS: SUSAN TULLOCK
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Title Annotation:The garden
Author:Stone, Anita B.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Apr 22, 2011
Words:2224
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