Submitted by: Chris Turner, Old Northside Parks Horticulturalist
When I took over maintenance of the parks in The Old Northside a few years back one of the first things I did was add annual flowers. Nothing gives you as much color as annuals and with large numbers of people walking through these parks it’s worth a little extra effort. Not only do I plant summer annuals, but early spring annuals as well. Pansies are the workhorses of the early spring annuals, but I want more variety in height, texture, and color. Here are some plants you should see blooming in our parks this April and May.
Alyssum - Many gardeners are familiar with this plant, but don’t necessarily know that it can take freezing temperatures, in fact it can stop blooming or die in the summer heat. Its small white or purple flowers smell sweetly of honey. This is a good choice if you want something to spill over the side of a pot.
Forget-me-nots - It’s been many years since I grew these as annuals. They are typically grown as a self-sowing flower in perennial gardens, but if you start them in a greenhouse, they will bloom with tulips and other early spring flowers. In the language of flowers forget-me-nots can symbolize true love, fidelity and many other similar qualities.
Stocks - If you find these for sale they are often shorter varieties because they look good in the nursery. I want them for height, so we plant types that can grow up to 24”. Even if they aren’t in bloom when I plant them I know that patience will pay off.
Icelandic Poppies - Everyone loves poppies. Unfortunately Icelandic poppies are often sold as perennials in full bloom in May. By that time they only have a few weeks before the summer heat does them in. The key is to plant them early so that you can enjoy them in cool weather and then let them go in summer.
Panolas - These are hybrids between pansies and violas. This means they will have more, smaller flowers per plant. In the greater scheme of things does this matter? Not a whole lot, but they are different, and that is enough to intrigue me.
Tulips - Wait, tulips aren’t annuals! While this is technically true, in our climate tulips don’t often last beyond a year or two. I know, I know, in YOUR garden you have tulips that have come up for years, but I can point to thousands of tulips that didn’t. In order to get the best show we planted tulips last fall and will tear them out when we plant summer annuals.
I hope as you walk around our neighborhood this Spring you will stop and smell the flowers.
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