What to plant? Where to plant it? Plant annuals or perennials? These are all questions professional gardeners are asked daily.
These are, however, not questions that are too easily answered. It's not as simple as yes or no, left or right. There are, says Rich Anderson, garden buyer for Fred Meyer, hundreds of different plants and each one with special features."An individual has to sit down and decide where the plants are to go, then look at what's available. They then should talk the local nurseryman or someone at the local gardening center. If this isn't possible, then there are some good books on the market to help. They tell all about the plants, the type of soil and what environment the various plants do best in."
Annuals, he explains, are plants that live one season and then die over the winter months. One advantage to this type of plant is that it blooms prolifically throughout the summer.
Perennials come back year after year. In the winter the plants die from soil level up, but in early spring produces a new plant. Each perennial has its own growing season - early spring, mid-summer, late summer.
The first thing to consider when putting in annuals is the light situation, that is, will it be in sun or shade. Anderson suggests making sure the plant variety is well suited to the lighting conditions.
"Petunias and marigolds, for example, prefer a sunny location. They do better in the sun. Others, like impatiens and bergonias prefer shady areas. There are some plants that will tolerate both sun and shade. Dahlias will do well in partial sunlight, and so will lobelias," he says.
He also points out that there are some species that do well in the hot summer heat.
"Vinca love the heat. They love the sun and do not do well in a cool, moist environment. On the other hand, salvia, petunia and marigolds do better where it is more moist. So, if you were looking for something that would do well in a hot, sunny area then vinca would be a good choice. It would not do as well in a shaded spot," he adds.
He also notes that annuals do well when planted in containers that might sit on a patio or porch.
In looking at some of the early blooming perennials, he suggests people look at things like creeping plox that grow to be very dense and produces very prettypink, white and blue flowers.
A plant called Basket of Gold, is also an early to mid-summer bloomer, grows in a upright fashion to be from 18 to 24 inches tall and produces large quantities of small, yellow flowers.
Other early bloomers include the aubrietia or purple rock cress, the vernonica and the arabis or rock cress.
A good mid-summer bloomer would be the dianthus, carnations and tall phlox.
Anderson also notes that ground cover is something that the home gardener can use to enhance the look of a home.
There are, he says, many varieites and many colors. Some of the more popular are Creeping Jenny, potentilla, green and bronze ajuga, Dragons Blood and Utah sedum.
Here too, he says, some varities prefer sunny areas and some prefer shaded areas.
"The advantage of ground cover is the fact it grows to be very dense. This prevents annual and perennial weeds from growing. Besides, there are some very attractive ground covers available," he adds.