BR Town Hall

Blowing Rock’s Town Hall mixes annuals and perennials nicely.

Why, you might ask, am I talking about annuals towards the end of the growing season? The reason is that this is the time I actively assess the garden, noting what I like, what areas need work and what I dislike.

As gardens age, the exposure to the sun changes, so suddenly you might find that you are dealing with sun-loving plants in a too-shady area.

Recently I saw “Friends don’t let friends plant annuals” on a t-shirt and thought, “How stupid.”

As a long-time perennial gardener, I have come to appreciate annuals. Perennials, with rare exceptions, only have a six-week period (at most) to show off their plumage whereas annuals perform throughout the summer before working themselves into a stupor in September. They produce and produce and produce until they die of exhaustion.

I am not advocating a garden consisting only of annuals. Those gardens, in my mind, become blobs of color while I prefer seeing definition and form. To my mind, the perfect way to use annuals is to plug up those holes that inevitably appear in the perennial border.

A friend of mine effectively did this when she planted several Euphorbia “Diamond Frost.” This annual forms a lovely mound of small white flowers, which contrast beautifully with its green leaves. If you like Baby’s Breath, you will enjoy this euphorbia.

I have become a big fan of African marigolds, which are larger and considerably bolder than the French marigolds that I find a bit wimpy. I planted some in front of the gallery series of dahlias I plant every late spring — and the contrast in colors is quite effective and soothing. When the dahlias want to take a break and rest, the African marigolds cheerfully fill in spot with their cheerful flowers. To see the gallery series of dahlias, go to

I grew up with geraniums, not the perennial Geranium, but the annual Pelargonium, and I still appreciate them when gardening in the mountains. Plant them in sun either in a planter or scattered throughout the garden and they will do quite well. Please don’t create a blob of color by planting them en masse as they have a lovely form that should be savored. The scented ones can handle less sun and come in a variety of lovely aromas. Deer will avoid these annuals.

Petunias can be quite charming in a planter, although I’m not as fond of them when planted in the ground. They need to drape themselves over the rim of a planter I think. They do well where the days are on the cooler side; in blazing hot weather they tend to melt into an unattractive leggy mess.

Who doesn’t smile at sunflowers waving in the breeze? Who doesn’t appreciate the manner the colorful zinnias have of cheering up a blank corner? There really are annuals for everyone’s taste and color scheme.

Take notes on your computer so that you will have this information when you begin to plant in the spring. And please don’t sneer at annuals. Rather, appreciate their ability to bloom consistently throughout the summer.

Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email

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