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Plant Annuals Three Times a Year!

How the Seasonal Color Calendar Works

It is surprising how often you need to replace seasonal color displays. Once a year is not enough. The schedule landscape professionals use for temporary floral displays follows the calendar in a unique way. Plants labeled as annuals do not last a full year, but they can stretch through more than one season. Seasonal color typically needs refreshing at least three times a year.

One way to stretch the effectiveness of a floral display is to replace beds just as one set of annual flowers end their peak flowering period, using cool-season annuals in winter and warm-season annuals in spring and summer, but there are no annual flowers that perform a full six months of the year. Popular annuals have a long bloom period or provide extended color through striking foliage hues, but even with excellent plant choices, there are gaps with a semiannual bed switch.

An annual isn’t called an annual because you plant it once a year. It is called an annual because, if left to its own devices, it will complete a full life cycle sometime within one year. A seed can grow into a full-sized plant, flower, and then go back to seed and die long before twelve months go by. The process often takes only a few months. Corn seeds can be planted, grow to over six feet tall, produce ears, and die in just a few weeks! Annuals can sometimes re-seed in place and repeat the cycle of germination, growth, and seed production, appearing to act as perennials. Most often annuals depend on gardeners to continue the process.

Party Decorations

Christmas Party Potluck

party decorationsOur party is tonight. It has been fun preparing for guests and decorating. Here are some tips that we learned by doing this for several years in a row.

• Start planning early. We decide on a theme a year in advance, and then look for items on sale throughout the year that fit the theme. This year we are doing a peppermint candy theme. Gathering up a bunch of themed items provides inspiration for your decorations, and shopping with a mission is fun—like a scavenger hunt.

Arranging Flowers the Easy Way

The Fun Part of Setting a Table!

You’ve selected your vase or container, secured the oasis or frog, purchased and gathered flowers and greenery, and conditioned the plant material. Now you can finally start flower arranging!

First, provide a collar of greenery around the edge of the vase. Then add floral stems. Keep the larger blooms near the base of the arrangement, and decrease the size of the blooms as you work your way to the top. One easy method to insert the stems is to simulate a clock. Put matching stems at noon, three, six, and nine. Then put a few more at one, four, seven, and ten.  Keep inserting stems at two, five, eight, and eleven. Add filler material in the holes. Done! It’s not imaginative, but it looks great, if you are using pretty flowers.

Traditional mass arrangements can be dense and tightly filled, or left open and airy, for a more natural look. Try to keep the size of the arrangement no more than two-thirds the size of the container, or it will be top-heavy and out of scale with the vase. You can create strongly shaped domes, cones, or squares with tightly spaced blooms. The stems on geometrically controlled arrangements need to be short to maintain the form of the oasis material which has been cut into the final geometric shape. Many of Martha Stewart’s table arrangements are done in traditional mass form.

You can build easy, posey-style bouquets by hand-holding the arrangement and adding stems radially around the outside of the bunch, and then tying the stems together with ribbon. The stems can be long and elegant for a tall, columnar glass vase, or short and hidden in a smaller container. By tying the stems together, you may be able to omit the floral oasis or frog. You can also avoid the need for oasis by using a fish-bowl-shaped vase and dropping the hand-held bouquet into the opening, with all the stems falling into a pleasing and casual angle, evenly distributed around the bowl.

Real-life Wildflower Plots

Success with WIldflowers

Planting a wildflower meadow in real life is a complex, difficult task. The seed companies will tell you, if you want a completely care-free garden with lots of color, just plant wildflowers. All you have to do is buy a seed mix in a bag or a can (they usually have a photo of a kaleidoscope of blooms on the front cover of the seed packet), and then scatter the seeds on the ground. Then wait for the magic to happen. The ad representative for wildflowers has been very busy the past couple of decades spreading misconceptions about wildflower meadows. I don’t think there were any marketing conspiracies. It’s just that we all hope and wish it were true, and we have seen evidence of the self-sufficiency of wildflowers. We’ve seen amazing outcroppings of colorful flowers sprouting and flourishing on their own in abandoned lots. We’ve seen native primrose plants germinating in cracks in street gutters. If wildflowers are so tough, then why can’t we simply purchase a mix of wildflower seeds and cast them onto the ground and let the garden fairies do the rest? In reality, a self-sustaining wildflower plot requires planning to work well in the field.

The definition of a wildflower is not clear. Wildflowers and weeds earned their reputation by adapting to local conditions without any help from humans. They come, invited or uninvited, and naturalized themselves. The distinction between a naturalized wildflower and a weed is a fine, subjective line. Naturalized species are typically called wildflowers if they are pretty, and are called weeds if they are awkwardly out of place. Botanists can be very fickle! A wildflower mix you purchase at a garden center is typically mixed with invasive species that happen to have a decent bloom. Most of the successful germination you see from an inexpensive wildflower mix is from the invasive plant seeds. The results of a planting of a canned mix will most likely be Queen Ann’s Lace, Cornflowers, and Oxeye Daisies. The more refined species do not establish easily when merely tossed on bare ground.