Like many people, I love having fresh flowers in the house but hate the cost of purchasing them. Last summer I was able to clip cosmos, zinnias, coneflower, sunflower, larkspur and sweet peas from our landscaping indoor use. Through the winter, I've tried to have something blooming in the form of forced bulbs. Which oh by the way, my tulips POPPED this week:
I actually thought I'd done them wrong, it took forever for them to bloom. But every time I walk into the house I smile. I might have to force flowers again next winter, although I'd like to find a way to keep all their bloom times consistent and will probably plant some kind of grass in the pot as well for more greenery.
I've begun thinking about the annual plants I want to add to our landscaping this year. The workhorse of our landscaping beds are perennial plants and bulbs. First come the crocus, muscari*, daffodils and tulips in the early spring and summer. Then the daylillies, bee balm, larkspur, coneflower, irises, salvia, clematis and decorative grasses take off in the mid-summer. Last year I added petunias and snapdragons in the ground and pots, sunflowers near the front porch and a dash of wildflowers along the front steps. In the fall I have asters, mums, sedum and a burning bush to add color to the landscape.
Frankly, last summer I just wanted something, anything, to fill our landscape. This summer I'm hoping for a more cohesive look, and so might spend some time moving plants around. I'm okay with that; gardening is a hobby and I'll probably never be done.
That said, of course, with the perennials as a background, it's always fun to think about adding annual flowers that will compliment the perennials and bridge the gap between spring, summer and fall bloomers. There are a handful I'm planning on planting this summer:
Snapdragons. I'd never seen these in a landscape until last summer, and fell in love with them. They're so fun and spiky, and they respond very well to frequent cuttings (for indoor display!). I'll likely plant snaps both in pots and in garden beds; definitely in the location of a bunch of tulips I planted last fall to both mark where the tulips are and fill in the space when the tulips die back.
Lobelia. This bright blue plant thrives on shade. I'll use some as a low plant in a pot on the back porch, near the door, in an area that only gets a few hours of sunlight in the morning. I love the bright blue shock of color. I might also plant lobelia in the areas under the trees that I planted spring bulbs in, to keep weeds down and add color.
Petunias and wave petunias. This are a family gardening staple. They're hardy, and difficult to kill off by forgetting to water them. I'll use them to fill in garden beds again. Wave petunias act almost like a vine and overflow the sides of a pot in a explosion of color. I'll use them in front and back porch pots, as well as the hanging baskets I'm considering.
Sweet peas. An obvious favorite of mine as they're excellent for cutting and using in vases. Last summer I planted sweet peas in pots, which didn't do so well as they prefer cool soils. An exposed pot on a sunny porch meant they wilted. I also planted a bunch adjacent to the front porch, near the driveway. They took a while to thrive, and I never really offered sufficient support for climbing (some varieties can climb to 15 feet!). By fall they were beautiful, but flopping over into the driveway. I won't plant them in the same place again, and haven't decided where they'll go this year. Sweet peas prefer to be out of the wind, and have shade in the late afternoon. Maybe I can train them to grow up the side porch columns? hmm...
Sweet potato vine. This vine will both spread horizontally and spill out of a planter. I love the vibrant lime green shock, and plan to pair it in planters or hanging baskets with the wave petunia and snapdragons. Maybe white wave petunias, lime green potato vine, blue lobelia and pink and yellow snapdragons?
Zinnias. I'd also not planted these until last summer when I received some seeds from a friend. They're a nice flower to add to beds or pots, and are great cuttings for boquets. I'll plant them again as filler in the garden beds, and maybe in pots.
Thinking about all of these flowers makes me smile! The big question for me this year is: should I start these indoors from seed, or buy packs of them later at a garden center? Seeds are cheap, I have the dirt and south-facing windowsills, buuuttt... hm. I haven't decided yet if the time investment is worth the saved cost.
*I'm concerned about my muscari; most of it sprouted late last fall. I have all of these muscari leaves in the beds, but am not sure if the bulbs will produce flowers this year. I guess the only thing to do is wait and find out, right?