In the Garden: No garden is complete without annuals

Thomas Mickey

When perennials have gone by, annuals fill in and put on their own special show in the garden.

Each season brings new annuals on the market. Commercial growers are constantly searching for better plants, which means plants that bloom more abundantly and keep their shape and color longer.

Here are five new annuals for this season from Proven Winners, the international plant propagators. The first three flower in fabulous colors, and the last two offer an unusual leaf color for borders and containers.

A low flowering annual called Flirtation Orange Diascia performs well during the whole season. The small orange flowers just keep coming. Even as the first frost approaches, the color remains. Flirtation Orange reaches about 8 inches in height with a spread of 12 inches, so plant them close together for that massed effect. It needs full to part sun.

Small white flowers, ideal for a basket or container, grow in abundance on the Lobularia Snow Princess. The flowers are in clusters. The plant reaches only 6 inches high but creates almost 2 feet of spread through the season. Its trailing habit creates a great hanging basket effect, but it also can fill in a border that needs continuous color. This plant, too, needs full to part sun.

Annual Verbenas are dependable in the landscape. A new variety called Superbena Pink Parfait offers bicolor flowers of white to soft pink shades with a darker pink eye. This Verbena is heat and drought tolerant, and is also low, reaching about 10 inches high, with a foot spread. It is resistant to powdery mildew.

The Charmed Oxalis series offers two or three colors. The Charmed Wine shows a purple leaf. The shamrock-shaped leaves and small white flowers thrive best in partial to full shade. It reaches 12 to 16 inches in height. Some people grow Oxalis indoors, but it also does well in the garden. This variety looks great in a container all by itself, with its burgundy leaves and tiny flowers making a bold statement.

For a hanging basket or container that needs colorful leaves hanging over the edge, you can’t beat the Ipomoea batatas Illusion, a new series of sweet potato vine.

The Midnight Lace variety’s leaf color is almost black, but really a dark purple with magenta veins. This is a vine that can reach several feet if you let it. You can control it by simply keeping it trimmed. It also has a strong mounding habit. Grow in full sun or part shade.

Like a faithful friend, annuals are always there for us when we need them. Though you may plant only a few, newer varieties offer a gardener longer-lasting color, and often less need for maintenance.

Patriot Ledger contributor Thomas Mickey is a master gardener from Quincy, Mass., and a professor at Bridgewater State College. You may reach him at