In Outdoor Gardens


All gardeners and plant people have favorites, biases, and emotional attachments to their plants–I am here to suggest that you might want to reconsider your old prejudices. I have always been a tree and shrub person–perennials were nice, but too much work, and annuals were too fussy. Trees and shrubs are easy. They demand very little time or effort. But maturity, work and weather have all affected my perceptions.

January of 2012 and February of 2017 both had horribly wet, heavy snows. Many of my favorite trees were maimed. Some recovered health–if not beauty–after 2012. However, I’m not sure they will be able to recover again. Because trees are long-lived, and sometimes expensive, they become individuals that we notice and care about. The death of a specimen tree makes a big, empty space in a landscape. I won’t give up my trees and shrubs–they are the backbone of my yard–but I have reconsidered my feelings about other plant groups. Perennials are great fillers, they provide changing color and texture throughout the year, and are in inexpensive option in comparison with trees. If one happens to die due to lack of care, or difficult conditions, I can always try something else. Luckily there are exciting introductions every year–plants from faraway lands, natives from our own area that have been overlooked, or simply improvements to old favorites. They do require more care than my trees, but they repay that care ten-fold, especially if your garden needs some color!


Perennials bring a lushness to gardens and change from week to week, and month to month. Throughout the growing season, different plants will be dominant as they grow, bloom, and go to seed. Often, the seed heads are as attractive as the main flower, or, as with some plants (e.g. hostas) the foliage is the main draw. There is a huge variety of perennials to draw from, and there is a perennial for every growing situation and every season.


As for annuals, we’ve had many a customer at Watson’s who asks: “Why spend the money and time for something that’s only going to last a season?” There was a time when I more than halfway agreed with them, but would point out that annuals were the surest way of getting non-stop color, and what a variety of colors, all summer long. Then I became the Annuals Manager, with a stake in both growing and selling the little guys. I secretly bought a few geraniums and put them in a pot on my back patio. They were gorgeous from May until early October. I began to enjoy my evening chats with them as I dead-headed and watered. The next year I had several (okay, a lot) more pots of annuals, some on the sunny side, and others on the shady side of the house. I enjoyed planning color combinations and I loved how enthusiastic the plants were. They were determined to live and flower and the pleasure I derived made the slight extra expense more than worth it.

Be daring. If I can overcome my plant prejudices you can, too. Try at least one new plant this year, and remember this is not life or death, and it should be fun! Do you have a difficult area you’ve never been happy with? Or need help composing a container for your porch? You don’t have to be secretive and embarrassed like I was–ask for suggestions! Remember, you have plants and plant-people at Watson’s here to help you.



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