Annuals can be amazing

Who says an annual planting has to be rigid and predictable?

I spied this colourful front garden last year in one of my city’s older neighbourhoods.  The combination of charming architecture with a planting that showcases complementary colours, varying heights, leaf shapes and movement makes this display a real car stopper.

What’s evident in this photo is that the sidewalk passes through the middle of this garden.  In reality, the actual front garden is incredibly shallow and doesn’t afford a lot of space for growing anything.  The majority of the planting is actually in the ‘devil’s strip’ or hell strip, a sort of no-man’s land between the sidewalk and the road.  This is certainly an improvement from the usual barren space.

The plants used here are:  Pennisetum setaceum (Fountain grass – the species, not the purple one), Cleome hassleriana (Spider flower; tall, purple blooms), Ipomea batatas ‘Marguerite’ (Golden sweet potato vine; low growing chartreuse foliage), Celosia plumosa (Cockscomb; low, bushy with golden plumes), Petunia hybrida, Begonia semperflorens (Wax begonia; low, fuschia pink clustered blooms), Brassica oleracea (Flowering kale; low purple ruffled rosettes), and Verbena bonariensis (Brazilian verbena; tall, airy purple flowered)

Here is another planting that features a couple of the same annuals, but in linear bands instead of blocks.  You can see the fuzzy pink plumes of fountain grass, Brazilian verbena, floss flower (Ageratum houstonianum ‘Blue Horizon’), Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ and Alyssum lobularia (Sweet alyssum).

The only down side to these plantings is that they reach their glorious prime in the latter part of the summer; the first half of the season shows a display that is decidedly less effusive.

Still, it proves that a garden planted entirely with annuals can achieve much the same effect as a mixed bed, where foliage is given the same value as flowers.

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