“Friends don’t let friends buy annuals.” My very first boss wore a button with that phrase to work every day. I didn’t have a “normal job” like most teenagers. I didn’t wait tables at the local fish house or make sundaes at Dairy Queen. Instead, I worked at a garden center, watering perennials until my fingers and toes looked like anemic raisins. My manager had a horticulture degree from Cornell and was someone whose opinions you didn’t question. I walked out of that job years later knowing a few things. One, there is no such thing as an indestructible hose. And two, annuals are bad.
That’s why I thought I was being hazed a decade later when one of my first assignments at Fine Gardening was editing an article on designing with annuals. “They’re just testing me,” I thought. “No way is this actually an article topic.” But it was. And at some point during the photo shoot for that article, my opinion of annuals changed. As I wandered through beautiful borders filled with an assortment of plants including annuals, I realized these one-year wonders had merit. Annuals didn’t have to be garish; they could be gorgeous when used thoughtfully.
In his article “Six Ways to Design With Annuals,” Steve Aitken highlights several inventive ways these temporary plants can enhance a garden. From hiding the bare legs of a robust tropical to adding needed color to a shady spot, these ideas are easy to implement on any scale. If my old boss dropped by to visit my garden today, she’d see quite a few choice annuals—and my garden is better for it. Hopefully I’d have enough advance warning to create a makeshift button of my own that said, “Friends let friends buy any plant they darn well please.”
—Danielle Sherry, executive editor
From Fine Gardening #198
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