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Perennials Versus Annuals
by Tim Henry
Tim Henry discusses the differences between annual and perennial ornamentals, what to use them for, and where to plant them.
For each and every one of us starting out in gardening this is a daunting question. I didn't even know the difference when I started to plan my first garden. When you start thinking about landscaping your home you'll need to decide. Most people find that a combination of the two works the best.
Annuals last for only a year, hence the term annual. However, they pack a color punch all season long. From the time you plant them in the spring, until their demise in the cold months, for the most part annuals will give you blooms and color the entire time. Also, you will find annuals cost a deal less than perennials.
Perennials on the other hand are flowers that return each year. However, unlike annuals, each perennial has a short bloom time. They will grow, and be green, spring, summer, and into fall, but some produce flowers only in early spring, others late spring, some flower only early summer, some late summer, some early fall - well, you get it. When planning a perennial garden you'll have to think about what will be blooming when and how the combination will look.
Although perennials are more expensive than annuals I have always invested in them. They are the cornerstone of any garden, returning stronger and larger the next year. Most perennials will last up to five years, some longer.
You'll find that over the years they'll need thinning. This is a great time to be able to share your perennials with your friends. It's always fun to swap plants back and forth.
Annuals may be more forgiving than perennials, and if they don't particularly like the place you plant them, generally they'll survive. You'll want to be more careful planting your perennials and make sure that they're well suited for the spot you have chosen. There is nothing more distressing than watching your investment die while you helplessly watch.
Before you plant your garden area watch the cycle of the sun. Remember that the sun will be higher in the sky as the summer progresses so places that don't seem to get a lot of sun in the spring may be very sunny through the summer. Also, in early spring before that tree is in full leaf a spot that seems sunny may by early summer become a shade spot. It may be best before you invest a lot of money in perennials to watch your garden area for a year. This is when annuals come in very handy. After the first year you'll be able to make a better decision based on actual light conditions. Most perennials that call for "full sun" exposure can do well with at least four hours of strong sunlight each day.