Big Dreams, Small Spaces: June Update
I love color. It can feel like a challenge to achieve bold color in the shade since most of the largest flowers require full sun. Still, there are plenty of shade-tolerant annuals that have adapted to life in the forest understory, including the fuchsia and blue lobelia I added to the garden in May. More recently, I added coleus and caladium, which have big leaves in saturated hues.
In this photo of potted annuals on my front steps, there's coleus on the left and caladium on the right.
I've heard people disparage annuals as a waste of money because they die in the winter. My response has become "have you ever bought a floral arrangement only to throw it away after a week?" Annuals are worthwhile because they allow you to drop in instant color into spots of the garden that need more pop. While perennials grow for many years, they don't bloom all the time, and for much of the year they may be dormant, scraggly, or just green. True, there are some highly ornamental perennials that provide interest when they aren't blooming: spring flowers turn into funky seed pods in the late summer, the leaves dramatically change color in the fall, and showy patterned bark is on display in the winter.
Whereas annuals bloom continuously from spring to fall; they know that this is their only chance to make it good, so they give it all they've got. Some annuals do come back all on their own because they are self-seeding. So even after the original annual plant died in the winter, new plants come up from seed in the spring. By the way, "perennial" does not mean "immortal." Unseasonal weather conditions such as extreme temperatures, drought, or flooding can shorten (or end!) the lifespans of perennials and annuals alike.
Speaking of perennials, I'm delighted that my New Jersey tea bushes are starting to reveal their pink cotton candy-like blooms. I even saw a bumblebee grabbing a snack from the flowers, I just wasn't fast enough to snap a photo.
There will be more perennial flowers for pollinators in the bed along the front walkway soon: purple coneflower, bee balm, and mountain mint. These plants are just starting to put out flower buds now.