What plants are good to fill in the spaces recently vacated by summer annuals?
Though Shakespeare declares that only in June come perfect days, gardeners in the Lowcountry know better. We have not forgotten the crushing days of heat that afected both gardens and gardeners last June. But, October, November — and even into December — we are furnished with perfect days outdoors when brisk air, moderate temperatures, adequate rainfall and bright Carolina blue skies that stimulate and inspire our efforts.
While Northerners are putting their landscapes to bed for months under snow cover, Southern practitioners are busy planting winter annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees.
Many gardeners will have basic perennials in place, salvia leucantha, faunting its pendulous purple and white blooms at the rear of the garden with sunfowers of the angustifolia type, very tall and foriferous, unlike the single dinner-plate size blossom characteristic of the French countryside. There should be California bush daisies, almost ever blooming with multiple cheerful small fowers. There is late salvia of many kinds, red, white and purple. And pen-tas is probably still showing shades of coral, lavender and white. So what else is wanted to fll in the spaces recently vacated by summer annuals?
For starters there are pansies, violas, dianthus, snapdragons, calendulas and stock. Pansies need no description, coming as they do in multiple shades and combinations, with or without blotch.
Some mixes have tantalizing names such as “Monet” and “Tapestry,” evoking romantic antique hues, plus “Blaze” for a more dynamic effect. It is sad to have to mention that they are sure-fire deer magnets, but hanging baskets and containers may be planted and placed out of range.
Violas are in the same category and may be used in the same way. Tempting new cultivars are “Rain Blue and Purple” with larger than average blooms which change from purple and white to purple and blue as they mature into an ever-changing palette. Another bears a more difficult label, “Enduro Sky Blue Martien” (not a typo), and is described as pale sky blue bearing many smaller blooms, although its photo indicates more lavender blue. Both are recent All-America Selections.
Snapdragons come in dwarf, medium and tall. Be aware that the tall tends to lean or fop with rain or wind. Among the dwarf is a new cultivar called “Twinny Peach,” a butterfy or double form, blooming in soft shades of peach, yellow and light orange. It shows promise for the front of the border. A good medium height is the cultivar “Sonnet” which comes in a large range of colors.
Calendulas, though not new, are certainly a worthwhile addition to the winter garden, exhibiting bright yellow or orange sturdy fowers. Stock is valuable, not only for its colors in the burgundy, lavender, lilac, red and white range, but also for its fragrance, rare among winter annuals.
Lastly, dianthus is a favorite for beauty and dependability. Virtually maintenance free, it keeps on blooming undeterred by any weather and is available in a riot of color through shades of crimson, pink, purple, clear white or varicolored for dazzle.
A pleasing combination of some or all of the above should produce a garden to be thankful for.