About the same time as Halloween the first seed catalogs for next spring arrive.  I am always glad to see them because usually frost has killed most of the plants in the yard.  For a number of years annuals were given a back seat to perennials but I like a mixture of both.

          New perennials usually take two or more years before there are many blooms but annuals get busy almost at once and many of them last longer than perennials, especially if you dead head. (This is a topic I hope to write about soon.) Their primary purpose is to produce seed for another generation.

          Annuals come in all sizes, shapes, colors and leaf patterns.  Some plants, like Lantana, we consider annuals but are actually perennials further south.  One of my tall ones for background is Cleome (Cleome hassierena), also called Spider Flower, and comes in white, pink, and lavender.  Once you have it, you will always have them as they produce seed to match its lasting flowers.  It grows at least 4 feet high.  The last few years a shorter version has been developed but I like the tall one. 

          Some annuals are very sensitive to frost but others last longer.  Snapdragons can take a light frost and keep on blooming.  In general the more sun an annual gets the more bloom.  Exceptions are Impatiens and Begonias.

          Another tall one is the bright orange Mexican Sunflower “Tithonia” (Tithonia rotundfolia). The foliage is big and coarse but sensitive to frost.  It does not reseed for me so I need to get new seeds each year.  There is now a shorter version of about 2 feet that I have never had as I like those big ones. You can start it inside from seed but don’t set it out too early.  They must have full sun to do well.  Each plant needs about three feet of space unless you want a hedge.

          One of the first flowers I ever had were Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatis).

They will grow 4 to 5 feet in a number of colors.  Of course there are a number of shorter ones.  They too are natives of Mexico so do well in hot and dry places. The tall ones come in red, pink, and white. Have 4 inch flowers and will reseed themselves.  The flowers cluster near the top of the plant with fine, dissected, ferny foliage and many times you will see them against a picket fence. The seeds are slender and poke out from the seed heads in a circle making it very easy to collect.  I sometimes just take a bucket and hold it under the spikes and knock them loose.  I also have a bright orange one now that gets almost as tall.  There are also seeds of double Cosmos now available.

          Purple Majesty (Pennisetum glauca) is a Millet developed here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln .  I save the darkest head each fall to start seeds in the spring. This year I had it in a large pot with “Bright Lights” Swiss Chard. Both of them grew over 3 feet and filled the pot completely. The Chard seeds grew up to be bright yellow or red and looked handsome against the dark Purple Millet.  The Millet seeds come up green but everything turns purple after a few weeks in the sun.  Then it forms long spikes filled with seeds.  The spikes are even darker than the leaves. Anyone who feeds birds knows it is the favorite of many birds and a major part of good bird food.

          I like to have at least one or two Amaranthus species along the back of the yard in full sun. Transplants have never done well for me so I like to start seeds where I want them, after the last spring frost. “Love Lies Bleeding” gets about 4 feet and then develops ropes of blood red flowers up to 2 feet long, hanging down that may be red or green or both. There is one called “Fat Spikes” I want to try this coming year. The spikes are purplish red, 3 inches wide, and growing up to a spike.

          Celosia (Celosia argentea) is not quite as tall as the others but is a super fun annual in several colors.  I like the big red one of the crested group. They are natives of the tropicals so need to be started in damp soil after the soil warms up. They have crested, cord like heads, that are thickly clustered and look and feel like velvet. They get 4 to 10 inch long with some of them 2 inches wide. The heads keep their color for several years if dried properly in a dark location, and make elegant winter bouquets.  The smaller ones are used in wreaths.

Copyright 2009






·        If you have not put on a fall/winter fertilizer or if your last fertilization was in September or early October, go ahead. Make sure it is slow release. It may be a weed and feed if you want.


·        It depends on how soon the ground freezes from really cold temperatures. If you do decide to aerate make sure you water lightly a day or two before, and run the mower over the cores that are on the grass a day or two after. This breaks them up the clods and allows them to decompose and fill in the holes faster. I would probably wait until spring if you have a choice.

TO PLANT Trees and shrubs?  NO

·        These can be planted until the ground is so hard you can not dig a hole. Be sure and water in good after planting.

TO PLANT Tulips, ALLIUM, Garlic, and Daffodils?   NO

·        Again, as long as you can dig a hole and get them in the ground go ahead and plant. Be sure and water in good after planting.

Copyright 2009