So, my neighbor, who shall remain nameless here, only wants to plant perennials. The rational for his decision is that annuals are way too much work. But, the fact is that you limit your plant options if you only work with perennial plants, which come with the assurance that they will reappear for at least three consecutive more years. That is versus the alternative of planting annuals which exhaust their full life cycle in a single growing season. But, do they really only last one growing cycle? More on that in a minute. Sometimes plants act like annuals when they are planted outside of their (USDA) growing zone. All plants are rated as native to a growing zone, which you can find with a simple Google search and match up to the zone where you reside (with your zip code). See https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov to find your zone.
So you may wonder then, why would anyone want to plant annuals if they only last for a single growing season. The simple answer is that you will have access to a wider selection of flowers with more colors if you set aside growing zone assumptions. I challenge you to consider, if you have been following along our plan, which plants are turning your head as you scroll though inspiration pictures (in magazines, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). You will find that some of your ”favs” are often likely annuals in your zone (unless you live in California, where they are rewarded with beautiful weather year round). Most of us need to slug around the garden and consider workaround strategies that fit with Mother Nature’s schedule. But alas, there are workarounds. Consider dahlia tubers which you can dig up in the fall and replant in the spring.
Dahlias as Annuals
Its fitting to talk about dahlias since we are having our annual dahlia sale. You can check out pics for inspiration on the https://le-pommier.org website, but there are many more varieties and options available out there. Dahlias come in many sizes and heights, starting with a potted or border-size plant all the way up to plants with 5-6 foot stems. Beyond height, is the size of the flower bloom, some of which range up to the size of your head (no joke). If you hear the term dinner plate variety, it means that the bloom is pretty substantial.
I have a range of dahlias in my garden, beginning with American Pie, which looks great in a pot (or border) up to the Kelvin Floodlight (which is about 50 inches tall and has a bloom that approximates the size of a dinner plate). I arrange them in rows with the tallest in the back, medium in the middle, and so forth. Dahlias are not native to my zone, so I have to dig them up in fall after the first or second frost and store them until they can be replanted again. But, I love them. I love looking at them, I cut them, and even my neighbor (who doesn’t want to be bothered with annuals) told me that he can see ‘Kelvin’ from his bedroom window.
Your assignment this week if you accept it is to check out dahlia photos online and consider for your garden plan.
Key Factors for Growing Dahlias:
- Take note of plant height and spacing requirements (dahlias look nice when planted in bunches);
- Stake taller plants with bamboo sticks (which you can buy at most garden centers or Amazon);
- Take cuttings for inside and proudly display in a vase;
- Dig up tubers in the fall (after the first frost) if they are not native to your USDA growing zone;
- Store tubers in a cool dry space (garage or basement often work);
- Replant in the spring or later (after all danger of frost has passed); and
- Buy more dahlias for next year 🙂