Annual Appeal (Jesse’s Favorites)

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “what are your favorite annuals?” I have many favorites for so many different reasons. Some annuals are easy to grow and don’t require much care or water. Other annuals fill in a large space nicely or match a color scheme or play nicely with their annual and perennial neighbors. Some I just adore alone or in a group. This past summer was a great summer for growing annuals in Saint Louis. We didn’t have too many extended heat waves and the early rains helped to get everything off to a nice start. So I thought some fun descriptions of a few of this year’s favorites would be worth sharing.

Zinnia ‘Uproar Rose’ – This plant has become a staple in our
combinations. It pops above most plants at three feet with a massive double rose-like blossom that bees just can’t resist. We don’t see the mildew on this zinnia that plagues others and it blooms all summer long. I don’t recommend it for containers except for very large pots. Another Zinnia I loved was called ‘Inca’. We used this orange beast in our annual display at Centennial Commons, a bed that was designed to be a hot garden. It looked great with Coleus ‘Defiance,’ Petunia ‘Red Velour,’ and Lantana ‘Flame.’

Dahlia ‘Mystic Illusion’ – Whoa! I had never grown this and didn’t
expect to see it so big and lush and content, and I should mention it
was virtually maintenance free. The bold black leaves contrast with just about everything and the big yellow blooms pop out at you as they float like giant stars in front and above the two foot tall black as night foliage. This was a major player in the hot Centennial Commons bed and can also be seen nicely paired with Coleus ‘Wasabi’ at Epstein Plaza.

Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ Not a year will go by where I don’t use this somewhere. The purple-rose blossoms are busy with pollinators as
soon as they appear. The foliage is just dark olive and purple enough to make this plant a fantastic filler before it blooms and really set off the spikey blooms when they appear. This salvia, like most will get big, but it is easy to prune and works best when tangled amongst other plants like zinnia and coleus.

New Guinea Impatien ‘Electric Orange’ – Ka-pow! I dare you to
drive by our bed at Olive and Purdue and not notice this plant. The truly electric orange blossoms blaze out of the shady bed and can’t be missed even on these little foot and a half tall plants. I took a risk and planted them with the silver Dusty Miller and was pleased to see a bold contrast that is delightful to the eye even when flying by at 35mph.

Mecardonia – This is another first for me. This little lemony yellow guy can be found at Centennial Commons creeping along the front of the hot colored annual bed. At first it didn’t look like much and I
had my doubts, but it started to fill in the low open spaces as a light green groundcover. When the little lemony blooms appeared a few inches above the foliage I was pleasantly surprised…they absolutely glow in the sun. This plant looks delicate and dainty but it fills in nicely and holds its own against neighbors.

Foxtail Fern – This was an experiment after one of our employees obsessed over finding one of these for her home last year. I had used
Asparagus Fern with great success in the ground but never tried the Foxtail Fern. Our grower agreed to bring them in for us at Centennial Commons and the Golf Course and I can say I had more questions about this plant than any other this year. A total curiosity, the light green foliage plant that looks like the tendrils of an octopus or something growing on a coral reef. It has held up nicely in the full sun and part shade. The unique foliage catches the eye and combines with just about anything.

Cleome ‘Senorita Rosalita’ – A small Cleome that can handle
containers and smaller beds, and also not leave behind a hundred seeds? Sign me up! The rosy white flowers of this plant stand about 2 feet above the ground and look fantastic with any purple foliage or mixed with pinks and reds.

Lantana ‘Sunrise Rose’ – This tough guy blooms all summer long with a yellow center that fades outward to orangey peach and on to pink.

There are many spectacular blossoms at a time carried against lush green foliage. I like to plant this with Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ and coleus and let the blooms tangle and grow into and out of the other plants. It can get up to two feet tall on its own and the blooms can peak out at three feet tall when these other companions are there to hold it up.

Petunia ‘Vista Bubble Gum’ – This tough petunia is one of my
favorites. Just like how the flavor of bubble gum is unmistakable so is the color. This plant will quickly form a groundcover of pink blooms. It seems to handle wetter conditions than other rambling petunias and never fails to please me when need in the front of a bed or to fill a large space.

We have a few more weeks before we need to start worrying about frost…it’s coming! So get out and enjoy these plants while they last.

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