Annuals: Nothing will add as much color to the landscape as annual flowers. Annuals come in virtually every color and in heights ranging from 2 inches to 6 feet. There are varieties of annuals that will grow and bloom in the hottest sun while others will thrive in the deepest shade. With such a wide variety to work with it is easy to design beautiful flower beds for your home.
Flower Borders: Annual flower borders are one of the best ways to add color and life to your landscape and provide a great transition between your lawn and the foundation planting, shrub border, fence, hedge, vegetable garden or patio. The border can be a narrow edging of one foot or even less using one variety or a deep bed of 3 feet or more with several rows and varieties of annuals. It is usually best to keep the number of colors to two or three unless it covers a very large area.
For wider borders be sure to select lower growing varieties for the front, medium varieties for the back. For a narrow border be sure to keep the height in scale with the background. Select varieties by using the accompanying chart or by consulting with us.
Soil Preparation: Good soil preparation is essential to success with annuals. Till or spade the soil deeply and add a granular flower garden fertilizer at this time. We recommend Jirdon’s ® Vegetable Fertilizer because of its high sulfur and iron content.
If drainage is poor you will need to consider raising the bed and improving drainage by adding compost, peat or other organic matter to the bed. Good topsoil can also be used. After planting, a mulch will help to control weeds and keep the soil more uniformly moist and cool.
Planters and Pots: Planters and pots should be treated as smaller versions of the flower border with the same design principles applying. Use up to 3 colors together with the taller plants in the center or rear. Plants that trail over the edge, such as vinca, lotus-vine, sprengeri, or lobelia, will help give the planter unity with the surroundings.
A general rule of thumb to follow when selecting plants for your planter is that the eventual height of the tallest plants would be as tall as, or up to 2/3 the height of the planter. Dracaena (spikes) are often added to the center of the planting to achieve this extra height. Tall flowering annuals such as cosmos, pentas, dahlia, canna, or salvia look great in large whiskey barrel sized planters. You might also want to consider using a short trellis in a large pot. Vining plants such as morning glory, sweet peas, and black-eyed susan can create an impressive planter in a short time.
Planters and pots must have drainage holes. Use only packaged potting soils to fill your planters. Garden soil is not recommended, since it usually does not drain fast enough.
During the hottest days of summer, you will probably have to water your planters daily. Mixing root watering crystals, such as “agrosoke” into the soil can decrease the time you spend watering by 50%. The crystals absorb many times their weight in water and release it slowly to the roots. Your plants benefit by having a constant water supply to draw on, instead of a wide fluctuation of moisture.
Mulching: Mulching with acid peat, wood chips, sawdust, pine needles or similar materials to a depth of 3 to 5 inches is beneficial for controlling weeds, retaining moisture and adding organic matter. In addition, mulching will eliminate the need for cultivation which can cause injury to the shallow root systems. When using a sawdust mulch it is necessary to replace the nitrogen lost in the decomposition process by fertilizing with a high nitrogen fertilizer.
Fertilizing: Once planted, azaleas, rhododendrons and blueberries benefit from the application of acid-forming fertilizers, such as ammonium sulfate, to maintain soil acidity and supply nutrients. Specially formulated fertilizers for acid-loving plants are also available and will be of great benefit. Fertilizers are best applied in the spring or early summer. In Montana there are no serious or common diseases or insect pests. Powdery mildew can sometimes cause azaleas to be unsightly in fall but it is seldom worth controlling with sprays. A bigger problem can be the damage caused by rabbits, field mice and other rodents during winter. A cylinder of hardware cloth around the trunk will help to prevent any damage.