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Each summer, I love to turn my porches into gardens of their own, filling containers with a wide assortment of colorful annuals.  Here’s my review of some of this year’s crop.

First, a disappointment, which I regret deserves a grade of “Needs Improvement”, or, if you prefer letters, a D-:036This pathetic brown plant is Cosmos sulphureus ‘Cosmic Yellow.’  I chose it to complement the purple flowers in this box.   It is supposed to be a “well branching plant reaching 12 to 15 inches in height, and tolerant of dry, sandy soil.” Not so much, I’m afraid.   I planted eight of these yellow Cosmos between two boxes, and over a month later, only one looks any good at all:029

The yellow is indeed lovely, but the blossoms last only a couple days before drying out and dying.  I think a simple yellow, single-blossomed marigold would have served the purpose better here.

Petunia grandiflora ‘Ultra Blue’ shares the ends of the boxes with the yellow Cosmos.  I give these Petunias an  A-.  They boast big, bright blooms all season long and have tolerated the extreme heat of July quite well.  They trail modestly and spill just a bit out of the container.  The only problem I have with petunias is their frequent need for dead-heading.  If you do it by hand rather than with nippers, you wind up with very sticky fingers! 023

In the center of these boxes, I planted Zinnia ‘Orange Profusion.’   I give these vibrant, healthy plants a solid  A.  Their flowers last for over a week, and they just keep pumping out the buds and blooms.  037In this container, crowded as it is among other plants, ‘Orange Profusion’ has shown no sign of disease or mildew, and it has developed many branches.  It is about ten inches tall and nine inches across.  The flowers range from one to two inches wide.  These plants require far less attention than the petunias.

 Salvia farinacea ‘Evolution’ deserves an  A+ in my book!056The beautiful clear purple spires of this plant last for weeks–in a month and a half, I’ve needed to remove only two or three spent flowers.  It is fairly tall, reaching eighteen inches, and has a well-branched habit, spreading to about seven inches wide.  Last year I planted it in the ground in my rock garden and it did equally as well there as it is in the containers this year.   In both locations, it received about six hours of full sun per day. The bumblebees love it, and the woodchucks leave it alone.  I highly recommend this plant.

Just think how lovely my two window boxes would look if only the yellow Cosmos had thrived!  I would love to find something to take their spot, but at this point in the summer I will have a hard time finding any healthy annuals, let alone perky yellow ones!027

I am under-impressed with the plants in the larger pot that stands between the two window boxes.  Normally I like to use yellow Marguerite daisies in my larger pots, but this year, my nurseries sold them only in large, pre-planted, expensive patio arrangements, and not in the four inch pots I usually purchase.  As a substitute, I chose Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus‘Arrow Yellow.’  The Arrow series is a tall variety of Snapdragon, attaining heights of eighteen to twenty-four inches, and it has formed into a bushy, well-branched plant in my containers.  

They are lovely, when they are blooming:040However, the blooms quickly fade and develop into seed pods, leaving me without the cheery yellow contrast my eyes want to see amidst the purples, pinks, and orange.  045It is hard to manipulate the plant’s cycle such that there are always some flowers blooming and buds in formation when I nip off the seedpods.  I like the plant well enough overall that I may try it again, perhaps pinching off half of its buds upon transplanting in an effort to trick it into providing color all summer long.  Though I really like Snapdragon ‘Arrow Yellow,’ the amount of time it spends in green repose earns it a grade of just a C.

The zonal geranium and Lantana who share a pot with the Snapdragons also seem to need to rest quite a bit between bloom cycles this year, which leaves me with rather dull pot much of the time.  Pot O' Green PlantsI hope they will soon wake up and fill the pot with as much color as it had back on July’s Bloom Day!068

In another group of pots near the porch steps, a most of the flower heads on a lavender Pentas have faded and need to be trimmed.  This plant was beautiful for more than a month, but now I fear it will be quite dull for some time while new flower heads develop. See my remarks per the Snapdragons.  039I do like the Pentas quite well in combination with the Petunia grandiflora ‘Hulahoop Velvet,’ and the ‘Arrow Yellow’ Snapdragons.  However, like the Snapdragons, it gets a grade of  C as well.

Here is an upright Fuchsia I chose for its height.  It seems a fine enough plant.  I let it get too dry early in the season, and it dropped some of its lower leaves, but it recovered well and the blooms have kept right on going.  Turns out, though, I don’t particularly care for the plant–not its color, not its foliage, not the shape of its blooms.  Based on its performance alone, it deserves a  B+.  My personal, objective taste gives it a C-.030A tall plant I frequently use in containers in full sun is Angelonia ‘Angelface Blue.’  It can reach heights up to twenty-four inches.  After its initial tall spire finishes blooming, from bottom to top, additional blooms on side branches carry on the color through the summer.  It does very well in containers for me, and I love its deep purple hue.  I give this Angelonia an  A.   042The Angelonia shares a pot with a Flowering Maple (Abutilon).  I chose it for the contrast its delicate orange flowers would provide against the Angelonia, as well as for the interest its foliage brings to the party.  046For me, in this pot, it blooms poorly, rarely sporting more than one or two flowers at a time.  Additionally, it wilts quickly if allowed to get dry, and drops its leaves if too moist.  I do think its leaves are pretty, though, and they do look nice next to the Sweet Potato Vine.  Abutilon’s grade is a C.

I will end this lengthy post with another star, Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Double Yellow.’  048This plant is a great spiller and thriller, combining nicely with the purple Angelonia and the Abutilon.  I was a bit nervous about the prospect of dead-heading such a heavily bloomed plant, but, as the label promised, dead-heading is not necessary.  All I need to do is occasionally gently nudge the plant with my hand, and the brown flower remnants fall right off.  I am very pleased with my yellow Calibrachoa, and give it an A+!