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Choosing Annuals for Container Gardens Part 1 Sunlight

This is the year that you are going to get creative and make your own conatiner gardens. But with so many plants to choose from where do you begin the design process? The internet is chock-full of inspiration and so are all of those gardening magazines you have been collecting.

In desperate need of color? Annuals will give you that. Annuals are plants that perform fabulously for one year but are not hardy enough to endure our winters or have a limited lifespan in general. They are typically the #1 choice for containers, and frankly, why not? They are easy to grow, easily sourced and are available in a wide range of gorgeous colors, textures and sizes to fit any space. Adding annuals to any planter will give you instant color and can be done in an afternoon - shopping, planting and placement included.

Ok, so how do you pick? If you are anything like me, you have an "I want it all" attitude but not the budget or the space to support it (although I am a firm believer that there is ALWAYS room for another planter). Here in Nova Scotia we have some lovely nurseries with knowledgeable staff who will offer advice plant picks for your particular area. And from my experiences as both an employee and a customer of different nurseries it is always best to seek advice from the people who are out in the greenhouses who are watering and caring for the plants as apposed to the person behind the cash register. They may be as equally knowledgeable as employees are often trained in all aspects of the business but it is likely that the greenhouse worker has a closer relationship with the plants at the time of your visit.

However, if you are determinded to do this on your own it is always best to go to the nursery prepared. Over my next few blog posts I'll let you in on some of my secrets for putting together a successful annual planter.

The first thing I look for on a new client's property is the amount of sunlight that the planter will receive so I may determine which plants I can further explore.

A good rule of thumb for chosing plants for lighting conditions:

6+ hours of direct sunlight, or full sun = Many plants will do well here from geraniums to petunias and million bells to lantana and verbena... the list goes on and on.

4-6 hours of direct sunlight is considered partial sun = Impatiens (New Guinea impatiens are not suspectible to mildew), torenia, fuschia, some begonias, vinca.

2-4 hours of direct sunlight, in other words full shade = grow moss.

If you are adventurous like I am you can push the limits of your annuals by planting sun-loving plants in shadier conditions. The end result will leave you with plants that are "stretched", having longer, thinner growth and will likely flower less as well. Likewise certain shade loving plants such as fuchsias, begoinias and the new varieties of coleus perform quite well in full sun provided they are adequately watered (not the same as overwatering!) and not in a particularly windy spot.

All successful container gardens begin with a plan which includes noting the planter's exposure to sunlight and choosing plants appropriately. More on annuals for your planters in future blog posts - stay tuned!

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