A gardeners 'annual' report

Toward the tail end of each summer, I try to evaluate, for the sake of future planning, the performance of the annuals we planted in spring. Without much doubt, the excessive heat and lack of sufficient moisture can be blamed for  the poor growth of some, but a tried-and-true flowering annual withstood it all this year: A longtime favorite, the wax begonias growing in containers in our front yard have indeed excelled under the current adverse conditions with practically no care on my part.

In general, wax begonias are one of the most dependable, yet inexpensive, bedding plants, flowering non-stop from mid-spring onward until a killing fall frost occurs. And, in addition to the flowers, the fleshy, crisp foliage, which, depending upon the variety, is either green or bronze, is truly an asset, creating a lovely contrast. The flowers, which vary in color from white to pink to red, appear in small clusters and though each bloom is not large, the mass effect is very eye-catching. Also, the plants need no deadheading, a definite plus as the spent blooms of most annuals need to removed regularly. Incidentally, although wax begonias prefer to be grown in locations that do not get too much sun, the bronze-leaved varieties fare better under such conditions.

Easy and carefree, wax begonias can be grown in containers, hanging baskets or, since the plants have a neat mounding habit and are not very tall, to line the border of flower beds where the soil is well-drained and moist. However, what has impressed me most about our wax begonias this year, when the heat indices have been fairly high, is that the plants look lush with their green foliage and pure white flowers despite the fact that I don’t water them as often as I should. Furthermore, they are growing in containers that are rather small for the size of the plants and thus cannot hold a lot of soil and water.

So, even though I find it exciting to try new or unusual cultivars, I every so often come back to the basics when life needs to be a little simplified.

GITA'S TIP OF THE MONTH: Container-grown plants need special attention when the heat is high; so, do check for moisture at least once a day. Also, plants growing in terracotta pots dry out faster than those in plastic containers.

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