Michele K. Koskinen
Every year I try one new annual flower in my perennial garden. Perennials are my favorites but the blooming times often leave "Holes" in blooms and color during the growing season. Changing the look of a perennial garden can be accomplished by adding annuals and providing additional color or texture to the garden. The timing of color and bloom can also be achieved by planting perennials according to bloom time. My answer to keeping the garden interesting is planting annuals and using foliage as a backdrop..
Last year I used Cleome hassleriana, commonly known as spider flower or spider plant, this year, I think I will add Dahlia's and continue with the Cleome. Both have a distinctive texture that works well with the smooth leaves of Iris and Sedum.
The definition of the Dahlia from wilipedia:
Dahlia (UK // or US //) is a genus of bushy, tuberous,herbaceous perennial plants native mainly in Mexico, but also Central America, and Colombia. A member of the Asteraceae or Compositae,dicotyledonous plants, related species include the sunflower, daisy, chrysanthemum and zinnia. There are at least 36 species of dahlia, with hybrids commonly grown as garden plants.
The over 20,000 Dahlia cultivars range from small 1" to a dinner plate size 10" and from from 1.5 to 5.5ft in height. The flower has no scent and is noted mainly for it's color and texture. Petal shapes can be as simple as a single petal around the center to the more complicated textural ball, split, twisted, tubular, curled, spider or more.
The texture and design of the dahlia is what makes it a beautiful cut flower for the gardener. Since I choose flowers for texture more than any other design element, the Dahlia should be perfect.
Dahlias, sun loving annuals, are planted in the spring and if in zone 7 or below will need to be dug up in the late fall and stored accordingly for the winter.
They like well drained soil, do not like high nitrogen content fertilizer (do not overfeed) and will need to be water deeply after the tubers have sprouted not before, and twice a week in the summer. The operative word is deeply. They should not be mulched near the crown or stem to prevent rot and should be staked as they tend to be top heavy. Cutting will make them bushier and they will produce more flowers as do many other flowering plants. So cut away for those beautiful indoor bouquets. Dahlias like Hosta may also be a slug magnet so prepare the bed to prevent the slugs from having a night snack.
And finally, for me, it will introduce another annual to my garden that will provide texture, color and interest when the perennials around it fade from view.
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