Every year Halcyon Garden has more pots to fill, thanks to a generous grant by the Mom Green foundation. But every April we seem to buy fewer varieties of annuals.
We know what we like now, and we don’t do quite so much experimenting anymore. And we’ve finally learned that a broad swath of one or two plants, well chosen, offers more drama than a motley assortment of everything that looked kind of pretty at the nursery that morning.
So it happens in mid-April that Mom and I begin the hunt for our hands-down favorite annual: Persian shield.
Strobialanthus dyerianus will make your pupils dilate and your heart go all fluttery, if you’re of a certain sort. Its brilliant purple leaves veined with olive green call forth memories of cathedral glass on a shining Parisian afternoon. Put these in pots that get part sun, and the color will stay glorious all summer. Cut them back mid-summer—about right now—to keep them from getting leggy.
They’re at their best paired with something that spills over for miles, with foliage of lime green, like sweet potato vine, or silver, like Dichondra ‘Silver Falls.”
Favorite annuals for sun and part sun: Persian shield, sun coleus (various), dichondra “Silver Falls,” sweet potato vine, vinca (for toughness alone)
Favorite annuals for shade: impatiens (I know—boring. But they work!), calladiums (They work great in small pots), begonia rex (Incredible silver foliage that looks like a space plant, with spirals and metallic sheen), maidenhair ferns
Perennials that masquerade as annuals and work great in pots: all manner of small sedum (They do not dry out, even if neglected in small sunny pots.), and for shade: smaller hostas, hakone grass, sweet woodruff