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When Winter Wilts Your Garden, Call In The Annuals

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Published:   |   Updated: May 22, 2013 at 07:59 AM

I've written before about my preference for perennials.

When you garden on a budget, it's the smart way to go. Especially if you live in Florida, where you can enjoy your garden year-round.

Except ...

Suddenly - thanks to a couple of cold snaps and a serious lack of rain - my perennials are a bit pathetic. The tibouchinas are thin and mopey. The plumeria are practically leafless. The blue daze is blooming, but the foliage is bedraggled. Even my usually crazy-beautiful plumbagos and purple porterweed are a little lackluster these days.

And, of course, the malaise hit just in time for the holidays, when I wanted my garden to look great for guests.

This, I realized, is why people count on annuals. They aren't meant to serve as the backbone of a Florida garden, but they sure can perk up things when your perennials go pale.

OK, this isn't news. If you've spent time in places like Palm Beach or Naples, you can't help but notice that all those high-end professional landscapers make great use of annuals. If a homeowner is unhappy with a few droopy impatiens, the crew just yanks them all out and plops in some pretty new petunias. There's no guilt or shame in giving up - the flowers weren't going to last forever, anyway.

I can't manage that in an upscale - or large-scale - way, but I did pick up a couple of flats of lobelia and violas last week, and I poked them into colorful planters around the yard. Ahhh. The fresh color draws the eye, giving my struggling garden a whole new look.

A little Christmas gift to myself.

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