Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Now is the time to complete your landscape with annuals

This is the time of year when we are at a gardening crossroad. We've spent hours of time getting the lawn off to the right start, the gutters cleaned out and remnants of last fall's bountiful leaves removed from along the fence lines and under bushes. Now what? Time to kick back? No way! (OK, maybe a little.)

I look at some of the areas of our yard and think "maybe that stuff growing in that bed is perennials?" I'd hate to pull it and find out that it was something special. The reality is I know they're weeds, so I will remove them.

For me, gardening is like dieting - when I get close to the goal - it's good enough and time to eat! I've learned that like the last ten pounds lost brings the greatest health rewards, the last few beds and untamed areas of my yard being cleaned up and weed-free make the whole yard that much healthier. Fewer weeds in the area will lessen the chance of spread and the need to use harmful chemicals to stop the problem. My Grandma "G" used to have an apron that said, "If you give a weed an inch, it'll take a yard!" How true.

Now what to do with all of that great amended soil? It's not too late to plant quick veggie crops like lettuce, herbs, and carrots. If that's not your thing, annuals make a great choice. Nothing adds color faster and more consistently for the rest of the summer than annuals. Whether adding color to an existing bed or filling that new garden spot, always prepare the soil first. This is essential for success. Till or spade the soil deeply and add a granular fertilizer. If the drainage is poor, add some compost, peat moss or other organic material.

Annuals are plants that only live for one season, so don't be intimidated and think that whatever you do is permanent. There are so many different varieties of annuals available that you can create completely different looks every year. Or, a well-planned-out perennial garden with a few spots for annuals is a great use for the space and would make a great addition to the landscape.

Your garden design doesn't need to be complicated to be eye-catching. Mass plantings are always striking whether you have a small space or a large area to plant. Select one plant that appeals to you and fill your entire space with it. I drove by a house last year that had a circular garden planted with nothing but short yellow marigolds. It wasn't a large space, but that one block of color caught my eye.

If you would like a little more variety, try two different colors of the same plant and an annual foliage plant. For a sunny area, you could try dark blue and hot pink petunias with some dusty miller. For a shady area plant some hot pink and orange impatiens with some coleus.

To the left I've provided a list that we complied last year of some popular annuals that are still widely available and well worth the investment. Remember, we have lots of beautiful weather ahead of us!

Jim Gainan is VP/Shareholder of Gainan's Flower and Garden Center in Billings. Questions or comments? Email Jim Gainan @