This vs. That: Perennials and Annuals

Perennials and Annuals are one of the age old debates between gardeners. Some love annuals and use them almost exclusively in their small beds around their homes and businesses. They are also a favorite of commercial landscapers and lawn specialists because they give a quick and easy burst of color and they fill up a bed very nicely and quickly for an entire growing season. Perennials take a little more patience and commitment to the long term development of a landscape design. Perennials can also be a little less time consuming because once they are in they are in for good, and they tend to be a more hardy when the odd cold snap happens late in the year or early in the fall. When used together perennials and annuals can create a beautiful collage of color and bring a wonderful level of intricacy and texture to your landscaping. So without further ado, I’ll give you the ‘This vs. That: Perennials and Annuals’.

This: Perennials

  • Yearly blooms, perennials return every year to grow and bloom so there isn’t any replanting or repurchasing
  • Multiplication, most perennials will reproduce or grow bigger every year. You can then split, or transplant the starts in new locations, this translates to ‘free plants’.
  • There are a lot more foliage based plants that are perennials. You can really add lots of ‘body’ to your bed by creating a backdrop of evergreen perennials against which you use your annuals to bring color.
  • Money saver, the most powerful encouragement toward buying perennials vs annuals is the money saved. If you take good care of a perennial you can have it for life, annuals must be replanted every spring and sometimes multiple times during the growing season as they die back or finish blooming.
  • Seasonal body and color, perennials can be layered in ways to provide continual change in the garden. With different growing and blooming seasons perennials can be layered to provide a time release color mix throughout the spring, summer, and fall. (look into daffodils, Hyacinth, and Day Lillies for a good combination)

That: Annuals

  • Color, color, and more color; annuals have tons of variety and color, you can find them in any size and just about any color. Where perennials fail to give that pop, annuals will showboat all summer long.
  • Quick; annuals are a quicker and at times easier solution to a nice full flower bed all growing season long. With the fact that they are usually purchased as fully mature plants, they can be planted close together and quickly give one a very full feel to the flowerbed.
  • Easy to find; every store, even your big box grocers will often carry a small selection of annuals in season. They can be picked up with ease and planted quickly and then pretty much forgotten except for watering.
  • Cost; annuals do cost more in the long run, where a perennial may be twice as much per plant as an annual the perennial is a one time buy, annuals cost you every year.
  • Patterning and styling; annuals can be used to create patterns in color because they are compact, don’t spread much during season, and come in such a variety of colors. You can layout a circle pattern or even form letters with properly placed contrasting colors of annuals. This can be a fun exercise in a curb side bed with your house number or family initials (just a thought).

I personally like perennials for many of the reasons listed above. I’m building permanent beds right now, and developing a foundation for the future landscaping of our little farm house. This leads me towards perennials because I’m wanting to spend time planting and building new beds each spring instead of replanting the old ones. Once a landscape plan has been developed and the beds built, I recommend a mix of perennials and annuals. I like an English cottage garden look, so I tend to want slightly unruly and very natural look to most of my beds therefore I use lots of foliage, Nandinas, Elephant Ears, Cannas, perennial ferns, and shrubs. Then I sprinkle in the Day Lilies, Hostas and some annuals for color where I see gaps. I’m not personally into the big blanket plantings of poppies or impatiens. So I don’t tend to be an annual gardener. Now on the flip side of that you do have most of your vegetables which are annuals unless you live in Hawaii. These can be planted as foliage plants for backdrop with flowers in front. It’s actually quite fun to use tomato’s as a backdrop for impatiens or poppies. SO there you have it, the facts and my personal ramblings. Now it’s your turn to go out and decide what you want to do with that flowerbed you’ve never been completely happy with…

From the Farm            

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About cale:

A student of life, with a degree in architectural design. I have a passion to see design change our world for better, and to grow the worlds greatest garden!

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High class design in overalls. It's the simple life of a farm through the eyes of a couple of crazy designers. We call ourselves Green Couch Design and we are Bringing Design Home.

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