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Curious Which Annuals to Plant for Warm Days & Cool Nights? Our Experts Share Their Favorites.

Are you craving some color in your garden?  A burst of something to let you know that spring is really here?  You’re not alone!  The folks in Tagawa’s Annuals Department are right there with you!

With more cold weather still to come, I wanted to ask some of our Annuals experts what flowers they plant this time of year.  Which flowers give a good pop of color in spite of cold nights and spring snows?  The five ladies I spoke with all have their favorites.

Ever tried Calendula or “pot marigold”?

Jere is Tagawa’s Annuals/Production Department Manager.  The combination pictured above includes some of the flowers she’s already planted.  The bright yellow calendula might surprise you, but this under-used flower can take temperatures down to about 20 degrees.

Jere pairs it with pansies and a beautiful ornamental kale, both of which thrive in cold weather.  The calendula (also known as “pot marigold”) may stop blooming in hot weather, but if you keep the plants trimmed and tidy, the flowers should return in the fall.

And for those of us always on the lookout for deer-resistant plants, calendula qualifies!  Deer will eat anything if they’re hungry enough, but calendula will not be their first choice.

Jere also includes primroses in her containers.  They’re usually grown as perennials along the Front Range, but they make a great addition to a mixed container garden, too.

Jere says she especially loves the yellow primroses, which have a sweet, almost fruity fragrance.  They can always be transplanted from a pot to a bed to grow on in the ground.

Bring back childhood memories…

Tagawa’s Carol love snapdragons!  When I asked her about her favorite cool-weather annual, she didn’t hesitate.  “Snaps!  Just look at the colors… and what other flower moves like the jaws of a dragon?”

Carol calls snapdragons the “Miss Reliable” of her garden flowers.  They’re hardy down to 20 degrees, sometimes even colder.  They flower all summer, given a little protection from intense afternoon heat.  And Carol likes the way the snaps re-seed politely… not aggressively.

Snapdragons come in a variety of heights and colors.  They’re excellent in large containers or beds.  Maybe they can bring back childhood memories for you, too!

A traditional favorite with a new player

Almost every gardener I know loves the happy faces of pansies.  They thrive in cold weather.  If they’re planted in the fall they’ll routinely come back for another show in spring.  And there’s a new player in the pansy game.

Enter “Cool Wave” pansies.  Deborah, one of Tagawa’s Annual Department Supervisor, loves these flowers!  She plants them in large containers and admires not only how tough they are, but their beautiful habit of trailing down the sides of the pots.

Cool Wave pansies are from the same folks who created Cool Wave petunias.  The pansies aren’t that aggressive, but they will spread easily, up to 24″ wide.  With sufficient water and protection from hot afternoon sun, Cool Wave pansies may continue to flower all summer long.

Bring on the ornamental cabbages and kales!

When I asked our Susan for her recommendations, she was quick to combine pansies with ornamental cabbage and kale.

Susan says she loves the texture that ornamental cabbages and kale bring to cool-weather gardening.  The entire plant looks like a flower!  The pink, purple and green leaves only get more intense with cold temperatures.  She suggests we pair them with a deep rose pansy, and we’ll be good to go!

Susan urges gardeners to “err on the side of caution” this time of year.  If there’s a chance of seriously cold weather, give the plants a light cover (like a frost blanket or old flannel sheet) to protect them from the frost, just to be sure.

And if you want to “accessorize….”

How about a couple of cold-tolerant plants that make great co-stars in mixed plantings this time of year?

Alyssum is a rock star as a supporting playing, in containers or beds.

These wee little flowers are a lot tougher than they look!  Alyssum can take temperatures well below freezing.  Its honey-sweet fragrance will be a treat for the bees on warm days.

Give your alyssum some protection from afternoon sun and an occasional haircut when it starts to get a bit too tall.  Then just watch for this small but mighty plant to keep on flowering!

Another co-star:  different forms of Dusty Miller.  The silvery leaves can give a bed or container garden a “finished” look and help the bright colors of spring flowers stand out.

Remember to acclimate!

Any plants that have been growing indoors, like in the Tagawa greenhouses, need to adjust to the outdoor environment gradually.  That’s called “hardening off,” which we’ll talk more about in next week’s blog.

For now, just be sure to give your cool-weather plants from Tagawa’s a few days to adjust to outdoor conditions before you plant them.  Set them outside in a protected place during the day, then move them to a cold place like a garage for the first few nights.  This process of toughening them up will pay off with increased vigor and vitality down the road!

Come see us at Tagawa’s and let us help you satisfy that craving for some spring color now!

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