As much as I love Purple Coneflowers, Daisies, and Hostas, there is something to be said for the bold beauty of Hibiscus, Fuchsia, Elephant’s Ear, Persian Shield, and so many other non-hardy herbaceous plants. Summer annuals accent your garden with punches of color and textures that you cannot get with most perennials. The availability of extensive annual varieties allows you to fill in nearly any space in your garden, whether wet, dry, full-sun, or shade.
At Scott Byron & Co., Inc., our largest annuals season is summer and we have over 40,000 annual plants in nearly 850 different varieties and sizes in our yard at any given time that cycle through every two days or so. On average, we have over 300 summer annuals installations each year that are planted from about mid-May to mid-June. All these plants are ordered from our growers in December in anticipation of the summer annuals season. December may seem an unlikely time to plan for summer annuals, but our annuals are specifically grown for us and our clients so our growers need to know what to expect. In March, summer annuals are starting to be scheduled and grown so that they are at their peak at the time of installation. We get our annuals and tropical plants from the best growers nationwide and even abroad – Canada, California, and Florida for example. In fact, our tropicals grower provided approximately 90% of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s orchids for this year’s Orchid show earlier this year.
While a number of our clients love to have the same summer annuals each year, more or less, approximately 60% of projects are redesigned each year. It’s a very difficult job to plan, design, order, and schedule that many annuals with that much redesigning, but our plant buyers and client relations managers are experts that excel at the work they do. In addition to our own expertise, we also talk with our colleagues in the landscape industry about new varieties in order to determine which plants are working on site and which are struggling in our hot and humid summer climate.
With the spread of Impatiens Downy Mildew, one of our largest changes in annuals began last year when we switched from common Impatiens to Fibrous Begonias and Dragon Wing Begonias for a majority of our annual beds. The downy mildew causes the plants to wilt and die, sometimes quickly and other times lingering over a few weeks. Once the spores are in the soil, they can remain active for several years. While the loss of such a popular annual is disappointing, it has fostered a lot of creativity as we meet the challenge of designing new annuals beds.
Summer annuals are a fun and colorful way to experiment with your garden and to create unique and unexpected designs in your garden beds and especially in your garden containers. What better way to keep your garden in full bloom than with the addition of summer annuals. I feel like their cheerful presence makes July’s and August’s humidity and heat more bearable. The lawn may be going dormant, the perennials are in their last flush of blooms, and even I may be melting under the sun, but summer annuals persist.