From sprout to spectacular in a season

Design an annuals bed this year

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— Some of the most beautiful and imaginative gardens in Steamboat Springs are created with flowering annuals. These undemanding plants become fully grown in just one season, giving gardeners an opportunity to experiment with color, texture, shape and design.

Simplicity is the key to a successful annual flower garden says Deb Jenkins, a local gardener who designed last year's annual bed at the Yampa River Botanic Park. "So often, people try to coax flowers to grow in a complicated pattern. But plants do their own thing and just won't grow into, say, a fish shape."

Before choosing plants for an annual garden, first look at the site on every side it will be viewed. Note the adjacent vegetation. Then choose your annuals with the colors, textures, heights, foliage and shapes that will look good from all the viewing points without clashing with adjacent plants.

Shades of burgundy, purple and pink were featured in last year's annual bed at the park. Ornamental grasses and foliage in colors complementary to the flowers were used to complete the annual garden. A striking garden in Vail's botanic park last year featured deep purples surrounded by silvery foliage. Choose colors you enjoy and experiment!

A color that Deb finds personally difficult to work with is red, unless just one red plant is featured. That's because the different shades of red in plant varieties tend to clash and ruin the pleasing effect.

When choosing your annuals, keep in mind the height to which the plant will grow. Low growing plants should be kept towards the edges of the bed to avoid being obscured by taller plants. Graduate plants so all will be seen easily. Using a berm or mounded soil can help create interest and elevations for your plants.

Consider texture and shape when choosing plants for your annual bed. Spiky stems contrasted with lacy, low-growing foliage provide a pleasing, dramatic effect. Nodding, ruffled flowers coupled with stately, tubular-shaped ones add interest and movement to your annuals bed.

Also be sure to choose annuals that will grow in the site you've selected. While most annuals like full sun, some need partial shade to survive our environment. Some require soil that drains well while others like it always moist. Cool-season annuals are hardy and flower best in our high elevation where nights are cool. "I like to use what works here in Steamboat," says Deb. "Some people get tired of petunias, but they are reliable and available in a wide variety of colors."

Ideas for your annual garden can be found by visiting our local botanic park or any of the many parks in cities along the Front Range. Cultivate your creativity this year; plant an annuals bed!

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