Whether it be a small garden bed beside a patio table where you take your morning java or a full blown forma landscape; annuals fit wonderfully into the scheme. As you design, bear in mind that bright and exuberant colors make a garden appear smaller than it is in actuality. Cooler subdued tones will have the opposite effect. A mixed spring border pops with bright tones or yellows, reds, blue and orange.
Use them in interesting ways to create focal points; an example of which is this old “country style farmhouse window” framed and accented with cascading petunias in containers, accenting the shutters and the stone structure of the home. Annuals with their different shapes, sizes and growing habits make ideal container plantings. Just be sure they have the same feeding and watering requirements and you’re good to go.
If you like a vivid color scheme, try marigolds, salvia, snapdragons, or celosia. For subtler tones, select the blues and violets of pansies, ageratums, or lobelias for a cooler, more tranquil effect. A mixture of Shirley poppies, annual chrysanthemums, and California poppies gives an informal, country look to a suburban garden. Cosmos and spider flower, with an edging of sweet alyssum, would also look lovely.
If you’d like a more formal look, stick with beds of one variety of annual. Good choices include geraniums, marigolds, and petunias. For contrast, add a silvery dusty-miller edging. Flower beds should be geared to the existing climate and soil conditions. In a dry-soil area, a garden could include statice, ice plant, daisies, portulaca, and California poppies. Sweet alyssum, zinnia, and vinca also do well in dry soil. Adding organic matter prior to planting helps conserve soil moisture in areas where water is scarce. Cooler, moister annual beds are best planted with flowers such as browallia, lobelia, pansies, and salpiglossis. A mulch helps keep the soil cool and moist all season long.
When selecting annuals for your flower beds, remember that the most interesting combinations come from mixing plant sizes and shapes. For example, tall, spiked African marigolds look good behind bushy plants of cosmos, which taper down to mounds of dahlias or celosia. In the foreground, you can use ground-hugging gazania, annual phlox, dianthus, or verbena. Flowers and foliage also offer a variety of sizes, shapes, and textures, and are effective when mixed. The daisy-like blossoms of gaillardia, spikes of salvia, and puffs of ageratum go well together. Foliage can be fine-textured, like the leaves on cosmos, or coarse, like those on the sunflower. Consider, too, the silver leaves of dusty-miller, the bronze of some begonias, the patterns of coleus, or the scalloping of nasturtium leaves.