Colorful annuals come to the rescue of spring container

Erin Schanen


I used to look at spring annuals as a waste of money. What was the point of forking over money for plants I knew were not long for this world, I thought. And then I planted some and everything changed.

I admit I did it begrudgingly. I needed to take some spring container photos for a project so, despite the weather being anything but springy, I picked up all the spring standards — pansies, violas and potted hyacinths and daffodils.

Everything was planted side by side — these plants won’t have much opportunity to do much growing this season — in order to make an immediate impact. I also added in a few yellow dogwood and pussy willow branches left over from the winter container arrangements, which just recently thawed enough to free the branches.

In about 30 minutes, I had a container full of color, and in spring, when everything else, including the sky, is still gray, that can make a huge impact. Thanks to the hyacinths, there was even some fragrance, enough to make you take note before the container even comes into view.

The beauty of this container is that it’s about as low maintenance as they come. All the plants are quite tolerant of cold temperatures, although I’ll protect them from freezing temperatures just to be safe. Like any plant, they require water, but it’s unlikely I’ll need to water more than once a week or so until we get warmer temperatures.

In fact, the most difficult bit of maintenance will likely be keeping the very hungry deer herd away from them. I have no doubt that they are desperate enough at this time of year to come close to the house for a tasty treat, although the strongly scented hyacinths and poisonous daffodils may discourage them.

Pansies and violas, which are members of the same family, are classic spring plants, but there are plenty of other cold-tolerant plants that make good additions to a spring planter. Snapdragons, stock, sweet alyssum and calendula will do fine.

Remember that any plants you buy at a garden center will likely need to be hardened off for at least a few days before you put them right into a planter exposed to the elements.

When I was planting the container (albeit a couple weeks earlier than I normally would have to accommodate a photography deadline) I did the math. Assuming that I don’t plant my summer containers until the usual time — the end of May or first week in June — I’ll be able to enjoy this container design for two months. That’s definitely worth it in my book.



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