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Posted at 03:10 PM ET, 05/24/2012

Give your garden a burst of color with annuals that are a perennial favorite!

Percent of precipitation received over the last month compared to average (Great Plains Regional Climate Center)
Before we get into the topic of the day, a look at the last two weeks shows the disparity going on in the area’s rainfall. Washington, D.C. basically straddles the “haves” to the north and west and the “have nots” to the south and east. I will be the first not to complain, looking at some of the deficits that the Eastern Shore is putting up with.

On top of that, temperatures continue to pile on with above-normal readings consistently outweighing the rare cool ones. What is particularly painful is the massive stream of tropical moisture that has become established off the East Coast. Still, the forecast models do give some hope over the next two weeks that we will tap into some of that and catch up with our wetter western burbs.

I believe in my past blogs I have made it abundantly clear that I am not the most ambitious gardener out there. When it comes to planting, perennials are almost always going to be my go-to plants. While not work-free, nearly all will give quite a few years of reliable performance in the garden. However, who doesn’t like the bursts of color that annuals can bring to the garden? The ones that get my attention are the ones that sow themselves! Voila, annuals that act just like perennials. Not only do I get off easy by not having to plant but I save money too!

Nasturtiums are easily grown annuals that add a touch of color to the flower garden or patio container. (University of Arkansas)
Let me say from the get go that no two gardens are alike, so what works for me may not work for you but in general for this area, these are some likely candidates. I love the early spring color of pansies and violas. Not only do mine self-seed but they are likely to situate themselves in areas where they really shine. I have a clump that set up camp under the maple tree and what a great treat they are in an otherwise hard-to-plant area. What really amazes me is that some of the violas are morphing into new varieties, climbing up through the azaleas with a dazzling display of blooms. This probably goes without saying but you need to stop deadheading at least a portion of your annuals so that they can go to seed.

Snapdragons are another fairly dependable spring volunteer. They spring up in hardy clumps wherever a sunny spot is available. As spring fades into summer many more varieties come on the scene. Shady areas are a dependable spot to get torenia (I have heard it referred to as monkey flower and wishbone plant) to come up, sometimes in such abundance that you have to thin it back. Sunnier spots support an abundance of verbena bonariensis, a tall airy stalk topped my mobs of tiny brilliant blue flowers. Cosmos are also a good bet to reseed and add color and hardiness to the depths of summer in the garden when some things are lagging. I have to say that the biggest shocker was having coleus come up. They are a tender tropical after all! Still there they were and grew to be giants. What a treat that was.

I will admit to going through the seed catalogs and wanting to order packets of just about everything. After a couple of years of the greenhouse in the basement ordeal, I was burned out. So what does the enterprising less ambitious gardener do? Find the seeds that can be directly sown in the garden! My absolute favorites are nasturtiums. Just soak the big seeds overnight and poke them in the ground the next day for scads of ground cover that will be adorned with abundant blooms of red, yellow or orange often with variegated foliage. Best you than throw the blooms into a salad for some beautiful eating. Other choices include hyacinth bean and cardinal flower for vines; cosmos and sunflowers just to name a few. Seed catalogs are very good at letting you know what can be directly seeded so check them out.

Until next time, let me know what your favorite annuals are and happy carefree gardening!

By  |  03:10 PM ET, 05/24/2012

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