Sunday, August 31, 2014

Manageable Annuals - August

I'm going to come clean right at the start - I wasn't going to write this post. I hemmed and hawed over it all week, deciding that it wasn't going to happen. As recently as twenty minutes ago, I wasn't going to write it. My barrel of annuals is struggling as we say goodbye to August and I'm a little ashamed of myself. Things were going fairly well until school started in the second week of the month and then I lost track of time and didn't take care of them as meticulously as I did all summer, when I had nothing but time. I wasn't going to write about it anymore because I was annoyed with myself. But then I decided I needed to finish what I'd started in May, by sharing the progress, or regression, of my annuals because I did learn a lot this summer.


August 7

The first two weeks of August were very dry, it seemed like the monsoon had given up on us. I continued watering every day but the plants began a rapid decline during this time. First the verbenas starting wilting and they didn't grow any more flower heads. Then the lobelia became completely choked and only a few living tendrils were left. There was a big hole in the middle of the barrel where I'd pulled out a dead petunia in July, and I think the open space helped the whole arrangment dry out more quickly after watering.

The geraniums continued to do well, I'll say that much. They're much hardier than I think I'd realized before and I am impressed with the way they seem to be outliving everything else. Though the petunias did seem to bounce back a little during this time.


August 19

I wish I could say that the dying verbena in front was a result of cold nights but it was still hot here and we'd even been getting more rain by this point. No, this was a result of busy-ness and inattention to my plants. The whole planter bed behind the barrel began to look like a jungle by this point too; I didn't have time to devote to weeding anymore. I'd been doing that in the early mornings but since school started, my mornings were packed with other things. I don't want to make excuses, I could have carved out more time for gardening but I didn't. I preferred to do other things, like shopping and cleaning, while I had some time apart from small people. Gardening, in containers or otherwise, seemed less pressing by this point.

I did keep watering, and the barrel was still benefiting from the drip-hose that runs whenever our sprinkler system does. And those geraniums just keep trucking; I haven't even kept up with dead-heading them as much as I probably should have done, but they don't seem to mind. They're unstoppable.


August 28

I can't believe I'm sharing this photo. Can you see what's missing here? It's the verbenas. They gave up the ghost and I ripped them out. They were actually crispy. Weirdly, the petunias seem to have come back to life in a big way lately, though they have become leggy. I think they finally have a chance to thrive now that the caterpillars of yore are making nuisances of themselves as moths somewhere. I know the soil looks very dry in this photo and you may be thinking, "Um...no wonder," but I watered right after I took this photo, I swear.

I'd ripped out the lobelia by this point too. It was scraggly and no longer flowering. But those geraniums, look at them go. I can't kill them, despite my very best efforts. And to be fair, there are still-living (but barely) verbenas around the back side, which you can't really see here. I was not surprised that the lobelia bit the dust, since I've never had success with them in several years of attempts, but I really thought the verbena would be hardier. I've seen it growing in much harsher conditions than the ones I'd subjected them to here, or so I thought. The geraniums keep going, though. Like the cockroaches, they may outlive us all.

What I've Learned

Next year, I'm going to plant mostly geraniums. I will also look at other plants, maybe non-flowering ones like coleus or "spike" plants, to put in with them. I've had moderate success with plants like those before. Geraniums seem to be able to withstand fairly bad care, so they seem like a good choice for me, especially for after school has started. Our school situation keeps me very busy and that has to be a consideration by August.

I'm going to plant fewer things. I'd tried something I read in a Sunset gardening book years ago, where they suggested planting lots of annuals in a pot for a ready-made lush look. But maybe I didn't know enough about the kinds of plants, or the eventual sizes of plants at maturity - something wasn't right here. The lobelia was dwarfed by everything else by July, and those ivy geraniums were spilling over a lot. I think the total plant loss this summer was three petunias, three lobelias and two verbenas. I didn't save my receipt, but I'm pretty sure the geraniums were the cheapest plants of the bunch and they did better than anything else. So I will definitely stick with them in the future. I have some reading to do.

I don't think I'll continue this series into September. By the end of the month the nights will probably be quite cold and there could even be frost, though it's usually a bit too early. Either way, I don't see the plants thriving so I'll end it here. I'm glad I kept track. I think I've learned a lot.

If you've been following along with my progress, thank you for reading and for the advice you've offered in the comments. I've appreciated it and will be referring to them in the future. I'm sort of glad to be wrapping up gardening season, I have to say. I've learned so much and become much more comfortable with high-desert gardening than I was a few years ago, but I'm still a beginner. I was good at planting when I lived in the east! But now I find it a bit stressful, to be honest. I've grown children, inside my body and out! I should be able to grow a few little plants. That's my mentality sometimes anyway. I know it's silly, gardening is an art like any other. I'll just keep trying.

33 comments:

  1. I'm impressed with how well they did all year. I see the same thing with my hanging baskets, and I know in my case that by the end of the summer I tend to let it go. I'd say you did good!

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  2. Completely agree with Mari: I'm impressed too. I'm way too embarrassed to show photos of the state of my garden, ahum. I can only resolve to do better next year ;-)

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  3. Wow, your annuals are doing amazing! I'm also very impressed. I need to do some pruning in my garden and prepare it for autumn weather. :)

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  4. Hello Jennifer, your annual flowers are putting on a wonderful show. Sadly mine have been neglected this summer, especially the sweet peas. I just havent had time to deadhead and water as I would normally. Completely agree about the geraniums though, they take a lot of neglect and mine are still going strong.

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  5. It's that time of year, when everything goes a bit wild and out of control. I was going to suggest you grow more geraniums next time, they've done so well. I find a lot of annuals just get to the end of their time and look really rough in August. You have nothing to be cross with yourself about, the planter looked amazing up until this last stretch, you did a really good job with it. Did you put any water retaining crystals in when you planted it? If you grow plants that like a damp soil they really help. You could probably save the geraniums if you have somewhere to put them inside. Or even take cuttings. Sometimes it's less fuss to just buy new ones next year though! CJ xx

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  6. Don't beat yourself up, they're annuals and you've enjoyed them while they've lasted, that's what matters. I think they've put on a brilliant display for you all summer, but they do start to fade at this time of year whether you care for them or not. Geraniums are brilliant, they will take a degree of neglect.

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  7. Hey Jennifer,
    Annuals always look a bit sorry for themselves in August. But by then I'm a bit bored of them too! I love collecting the seeds to grow again next Spring. I think that I get more of a buzz out of this part of the growing process than anything else. I could just collect and bag up seeds all day long. I'd send you some, but I doubt they'd get though customs ;) I thought your container looked gorgeous.Read Laeticia Maklouf. She has the best attitude towards gardening.
    Leanne xx

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  8. Maybe your annuals just came to the natural end of their flowering life? It might not be your "fault", perhaps they were just done. I can vouch for the hardiness of geraniums, as they are about the only thing still flowering in my garden (which is practically a wasteland, by the way). I think you've done a spectacular job of keeping those annuals going this summer, especially considering the fact that you live in a desert! x

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  9. I don't think you should feel bad about your barrel of plants. I think you've done a fantastic job with them. Pat yourself in the back for a job well done!

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  10. My mum always planned these, they are very pretty, I must plant some too next year :) xxx

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  11. I think that it has far more to do with the time of year than your gardening skills! You might be able to keep the geraniums for next year if you keep them somewhere they don't get too wet, or too cold. xx

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  12. You are being very hard on yourself Jennifer. Your annuals looked beautiful all summer and at this time of year, all annuals start to look a bit sad. You should keep the geraniums, they will come back. I am not sure about how to store them exactly but my gran always kept them, trimmed back to the hard stems and in the dark. I am sure the internet has a better answer for you though. Cx

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  13. We've just been to one of our usual nursery haunts. I wanted helleniums, but couldn't find any. We just ripped out a load of plants from the large herbaceous bed that had really outstayed their welcome, outlived their prettiness and so I have gaps. I want to fill them with plants that will be in flower at this time of year, since everything else in that bed has gone over by now. I did find a late flowering crocosmia and a coreopsis. When it stops raining, I'll get out there and get them planted, but rain stopped play, as they say at the cricket matches.
    Geraniums do well for us, in pots better than in the ground as infills, heuchera does very well in gravel, and this year we planted coleus in pots and they have done well too.

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  14. That's the good thing about gardening to me, that there is always next year. It's not static. My garden is a mess at the moment where I can't really get out and do anything, so yesterday all my pots and hanging baskets were emptied by my dad. He took the plants and soil for his compost bins. I shall top up the pots with fresh compost and pop some winter pansies in as soon as I'm able. Happy gardening. x

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  15. I'd agree with Christina. You are being extremely hard on yourself. This is the nature of annuals. They flower their socks off for a few months and then burn themselves out. I'd be really happy with the barrel, even now. Keep deadheading the geraniums and they'll keep going a bit longer.

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  16. I think you are brilliant, I think it all looks super. It isn't your fault. I'm sending hugs and kisses

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  17. I think that they have done very well to have lasted this long Jennifer, you can give yourself a pat on the back. I planted mine way after you planted your's and mine are looking very tired and ready to be replaced, the caterpillars have been at them and they look really sorry for themselves. Geraniums are quite hardy mine lasted right through the winter last year. :) xx

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  18. But Jennifer they still look beautiful! You should see the state of my hanging basket - worst thing is I bought my parents one at the same time and theirs is still in tip top condition - aaaaargh!! Don't give up x Jane

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  19. I think you did really well Jennifer, so please don't be hard on yourself! I think it's good to try new things and to learn. I have been disappointed and annoyed with myself for so many things (like stupidly ironing some knitting recently and ruining the whole thing!) but I have learnt now that I cannot iron yarn! It is frustrating, but I think you have done such a good job to keep them going since May! They just don't seem to last very long, but you got the whole summer out of yours which is blooming marvelous if you ask me! :)

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  20. They've lasted so well. The colour is so pretty x

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  21. I admire your honesty Jennifer, and agree with the others that you're being harsh on yourself. Your annuals still look good, lots of colour there. I have lilies in pots and they do well with minimal interference from me!

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  22. Do be so hard on yourself.. I think you were a very good gardener in this barrel. You should pot your geranium in a house pot and winter it over, Dayle does this every winter. We barely had to buy any new annuals at all this year due to him wintering them over each year. I think your pot still looks good!
    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  23. Lets see, it is the end of summer so no matter how well you cared for those flowers, or how well you didn't they are about to end their beautiful display. That is what happens at the end of the summer, flowers start to fade as Autumn starts to move in. You should see my flowers, well you can't because they have all died off even though I watered them and loved them, ah well.......such is the life of living in a hot climate.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  24. Oh well everything has a season, it was very pretty.

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  25. Don't feel bad. And certainly not ashamed. I think you did a great job... You should see my potted plants outside, at the end of summer... I tend to lose interest in them when the summer slowly ends... (Who am I kidding, I am even capable of just forgetting to water them in the middle of summer as well...)
    So I think your annuals still look perfect at the end of their season !!

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  26. Hello Jennifer,

    Annuals certainly can be very rewarding in the garden as they do provide a burst of colour throughout the summer season but they can also be quite demanding. Dead heading is a key to success. Annuals exist to produce flowers and then seed in order to reproduce themselves so the constant dead heading is vital to stop them running to seed too quickly and thereby not having the inclination to flower longer.

    Your Pelargoniums in spite of it all do look to be doing well so planting more of them next year seems a wise move. They appreciate not being allowed to dry out completely but do flower better if not kept wet. You have obviously given them the conditions they need to thrive.

    In our gardening days we always felt that more plants of fewer varieties looks best. It gives the garden or containers a more coherent look and enables one to give the right conditions to each plant. And, of course, next year there will be no pests, no drought, no heavy rain, just the right amount of sun.......!!

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  27. Geraniums are great for dry conditions - they don't mind it at all.

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  28. I think you did really well, but that's the beauty of gardening there is always room for improvement and you can learn as you go along.

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  29. Don't be too hard on yourself Jennifer, my pots are much the same and it rained here quite a lot during August. It's the end of the season for the annuals and no matter what they will start to wilt at this time of year. Geraniums are brilliant though and some of my geraniums are last summer's as I kept them over winter in the greenhouse and I intend to do that this winter again. I think you did a great job

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  30. Geraniums are the only thing that still look somewhat okay on my patio right now. They really are hardy little plants. I think you did an awesome job managing your annuals this summer. I am ready for mums and violas now!

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  31. You hit the nail on the head there, gardening is an art, and like any other art form, if we don't make mismistakes we don't learn and improve, I'm glad you published this post it was good to see it through to the end and you've inspired me to keep going with some projects I've felt like giving up on... thank you! x

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  32. II think you've done very well. I'm not good with plants at all but I do want to learn how to look after them because I do love plants and flowers. I think the only way to do this is to do what you've done here--choose some plants and learn by trial and error. x

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  33. I have finally admitted defeat on the hanging baskets at my door. I am NEVER getting anymore, so I've hung two lanterns there instead and I am much happier. Geraniums are lovely, I'd go for them anytime!

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Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

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