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How to Use Annuals in Your Garden

Lush colors and tropical textures add vibrancy to a perennial framework

Fine Gardening – Issue 177

Years ago, I created a long, deep perennial border that I could enjoy and critique from my kitchen window. I was happy with the size and shape of the bed, but the design was a struggle. Frankly, it was boring, filled with small-leaved plants that became drab by midsummer after their blooms peaked and faded.

So I started adding unusual annual and tropical plants to the border, including some with large, interesting foliage. Infusing my plant palette with these unexpected choices provided the contrast I had been looking for and enabled me to keep a continuous balance of colors going throughout the season. Combined with more traditional plantings, the tender plants create a feeling of controlled exuberance.

Annuals provide nonstop color from midsummer right until frost. ‘New Zealand Purple’ castor bean(Ricinus communis* New Zealand Purple’, Zones 9-11) adds a bold, dark note, while the cheerful gem tones of gomphrena (Gomphrena…

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