Deadheading Versus Self-Cleaning Annuals

Every week or two, as I am deadheading the spent blooms on my lantana, I think about this distinction. What am I talking about?

Think about annuals, for a moment. A true annual’s function is to set seed and die. Not all plants that we grow as “summer flowers” are annuals, of course. Many of the “annuals” that we grow up here in the frozen north, as I like to call my climate, would be perennials if I lived somewhere further south or west.


So an annual, like a marigold, for example, or my lantana (which is technically a perennial in warmer climates), or impatiens or begonias or lots of the flowers we grow in the summer, either need to be deadheaded (have the spent blooms removed), or they are “self-cleaning,” a handy little feature which means that the flowers fall off themselves.

Now, in the case of something like impatiens, depending on species, sometimes they still form a seed head. That gives rise to one of their common names “Touch Me Not,” because if you’ve ever touched a ripe impatiens seed head, you know that it can explode with surprising force and send those seeds flying!

Perhaps the best example is something like basil. You’ve always heard that you don’t want your basil to flower. Why is that? Well, basil is a true annual and once it flowers it begins to decline.


The same is true for cilantro, another annual. You don’t want that flowering (unless you’re growing it for the coriander seed it makes–or as a pollinator plant!)


As for my lantana, every week–or two, if I am lazy–I just cut off the spent flower heads–and perish the thought, any seeds that they’re forming. I want all the energy to go back into the plant to produce as many flowers for bees and butterflies as possible!

When Weeding Uproots More Than Plants

Once a year, I need to weed the area around my entryway. Most of it is “fern covered” but the cracks in between the slate paving stones have to be cleaned out once.

And for some reason, there’s an area under a mugo pine where the ferns won’t grow, so that will get weedy too. I haven’t figured out a good ground cover for under there yet.


So I start with an area that looks like this.


And finish with this.

This year there was a minor complication. I was weeding out my slate cracks….


Can you tell what happened? Perhaps with this closer photo.


I wound up “weeding” up an ant colony. I had to go away for a bit to let them resettle themselves.

But it could have been worse, of course. It could have been hornets!

Rose Reckoning

If you ask me about my favorite plant or flower in the garden, I unfailingly respond, “roses and hydrangeas.” I can’t help it.

While I do love and appreciate native plants–and try every year to add more and more of them to my garden for my pollinators–they are not yet my favorites. Maybe someday.

But my favorite roses–the lovely cottage garden-y David Austins–I pulled out of my gardens probably 4 years ago now. Every spring when I see them at the garden centers I still swoon–and then I walk on by to the more practical things I have come to buy.

What happened? Two things: the usual bane of an organic rose growers existence, black spot, and the rose sawfly larva.

Black spot is bad enough and there are ways to “manage” it organically but I am truly a hands off organic gardener. I try–unless it is absolutely necessary–to spray absolutely nothing ever. That’s one benefit to living in a climate where the only seasons are winter and July. “Winter” kills most of the obnoxious pests–or prohibits them from running too badly amok.

If I lived in a climate that was the other extreme, as one of my prolific commenters calls it “summer and January,” well then all bets would be off. I would definitely have to “manage” my landscape more intensely.


This is a photo of the rose sawfly larva. It may be a little hard to spot–it’s on the lower right hand quadrant of the leaf. It looks like a little green worm or caterpillar.


And here’s a photo of the damage. Now mind you, this is damage to a yellow Knockout rose. Considering how pest, disease and carefree the Knockout family of roses are supposed to be, you can imagine how badly the David Austins took this sort of thing! It’s not that they got defoliated–but you almost wished that they had!

Then just about when they had re-flushed out, the black spot hit. Nope, sadly, they had to go.


So this is what I replaced them with–all nice shrub roses.


I am in love with the Drift roses. I have them in 3 colors, Pink, (which is a single, shown above) Sweet (which is a double pink, immediately shown above) and Red (shown below). They are easier and more carefree than Knockout, in my opinion, although they grow lower.


They are not fragrant or good cutting roses however.


Another fabulous shrub rose–but alas again not fragrant or good for cutting–is the OSO Easy rose. I have OSO Happy Candy Oh! (Shown above). And I must say that unless you are careful, its thorns will positively impale you! So you will want it in an out of the place.

Bees regularly visit these–there’s a bumble bee on Candy Oh! in the photo. So again, while I prize my natives, don’t feel that you must grow only natives to please your bees!

Color Theory Again–Complimentary Colors This Time

This one is a little stranger than it sounds. The best way to think of complimentary colors is to think of “color echoing,” as a synonym. In other words, you choose one color that you like and then “echo” it in the other colors in the garden or the container combination.


It’s really easy to see how I have done that with this container. I took the white begonia–or the white container, for that matter–and I “echoed” the white ribs in the leaves of the alocasia and the white variagation of the creeping ficus.

It’s a little harder–but not impossible–to do in a garden.Fall Front Yard

This is some perennial begonia, growing out for the cracks in my slate steps. It’s backed by a red Japanese maple–and for some extra color, I have a couple of burgundy mums up there on the top of the slate wall.

New Fall container

Another container, this time with mostly perennials (the monkey grass doesn’t over winter for me but the coral bells have–for 7 years!)

So that should give you some idea of how “color echoing” works. Give it a try!