In the extreme south, and
to a certain extent in Central Florida, annuals were seen as being "difficult,"
and.because our seasons were backwards with annuals used for winter
bedding,this was reinforced by the problem of obtaining seed in good
condition at the correct time for planting. The seed supplies were the
forgotten packets in the garden stores, packed for sowing in "Spring
19xx," that we would have to hope had maintained vitality through
the hot humid summers (no air conditioning then) as we planted them
in the fall of 19xx or even the winter/early spring of 19xx +1!
The seed companies have learned
now, and so have we, that many more annuals than anyone had realised
can actually be persuaded to perform for most of our year. Seed and
plants are readily available now, and many gardeners have embraced the
opportunity to go for changing, colourful displays for many months.
The beauty and the utility of the woody material is still there, but
it is complemented and accented by the wider use of bedding plants.
Even more recently there has
been a softening of the appearance of the private gardens of people
who have grown tired of the tight masses of carpet bedding, and have
moved on to a more billowing effect from their annuals and perennials.
The look has been described as "the American cottage garden"
or more grandly as "bold romantic gardens." It does not fit
with the straight lines of foundation planting, or raked bare soil under
bareshanks sheared shrubs, but rather tends to rounded beds with smooth
flowing curves, which often replace some of the barren lawn area. It
goes along with labor-saving ideas, and brings a more relaxed approach
to gardening with less bondage to strict deadheading and weed removal,
and tearing out and replacing a planting as soon as it begins to look
A part of this style of gardening
is the realization that not only weeds, but our own plants can produce
seeds, and may self-sow to give us repeated crops through the season,
and even year after year. The more controlled style of gardening would
make no distinction between conventional weeds and these determined
colonisers. It would be "off with their heads," for all of
them, but in the more relaxed approach to what grows where, these surprise
renewals can be quite acceptable, or even wonderful!
We have learned, from chance
seeding, how the powder blue of ageratums both softens and intensifies
the harsh colours of a mixed bed of some of the larger growing pentas.
The same blue ageratum gives an astonishing combination with the chartreuse
of a planting of Golden Wizard coleus or Margarita sweet potato. We
also learnt by accident what skilled gardeners have probably known for
years: which is that Cosmos bipinnatus will lift themselves above
a low planting of impatiens or verbena to give an ethereal depth to
Be warned, however, that these
reseeders have no manners, and grow wherever they fall or are dispersed
by their cunning parents.. On the other hand there is an automatic screening
that fits precisely the principles of xeriscape gardening: if the water
relation of a particular spot does not suit the needs of the plant,
it simply will not grow. If only all the precepts of integrated landscape
management and "smart plants" all the other "new"
gardening programs were as easy to meet!
Gardening with this relaxed
approach to what is going to be in the garden does require its own set
of rules; first and foremost, decide how much control you wish or need
to exert; learn to recognise plants in their early seedling stage of
growth; become ruthless in moving or destroying those plants which are
absolutley out of place (do this early, before the beginning of flowering
weakens your resolve); and, finally, bend all these rules if necessary
and enjoy the surprises that come from the ultimate mixed packet of
seeds that was last year's garden.
This article was
first published in 'Proceedings
of the Florida State Horticultural Society' 108: 104,105. 1996 and
is reproduced here with thanks.
a list of plants that reseed in Florida gardens
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