Perennials rule at Dirt Cottage, but there is nothing like the pop of annuals in a pot. Or 12.
I am a particular fan of wishbone flowers – with viola-like colors – that thrive on the porch. I couldn't find any this spring when I happened to be looking, so I went for a flat of white impatiens.
They are the perfect flower for a beginning gardener to learn basic skills.
First, they let you know when they are very thirsty. Their leaves shrivel, their flowers fall off and they look absolutely miserable. Water them, and they start plumping up before your eyes.
If you don't overwater them or treat them like cacti, they will reward you with lots and lots of blooms until the first frost.
Second, you can learn the basics of deadheading, even though you don't have to do it.
To deadhead a flower with soft parts, like an impatien, just pinch it off below the flower using your thumb and forefinger. If you don't want to use your fingers or have a plant with stiffer parts, use pruning shears or a sharp pair of kitchen scissors to snap off the flowers.
Deadheading will make most annuals bloom more. They put their energy into making more flowers instead of making seeds.
To see more pictures and step-by-step instructions on how to deadhead, including how to turn them into no-fuss mulch, check out our gardening blog, "We're Digging It" at www.journalgazette.net/digging.
Third, you can practice rotating plants for display.
I've been collecting small French terra cotta clay pots whenever I come upon them, with shapes that are just a little bit different than the norm. Each one is big enough for one impatien or wishbone plant.
Half of the pots go into a little shaded area under the trees and half go on the porch. Each Saturday morning, I brew up a pot of coffee and do my pinching and sorting.
Finally, you can plunk a little impatien plug into any larger pot that's looking bare.
Take your fingers, a kitchen knife or whatever, and make a hole as big as the little root ball and snug it into the space. Water it.
It's a little late in the season to try, but these are probably the most forgiving plants you'll find.