Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens

Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens

by Wayne Winterrowd

Experienced gardeners often ask: Why plant annuals? They are common and garish and just don't last.

This anticipated new work by eminent horticulturist Wayne Winterrowd--covering more than 250 genera and 600 species and containing over 250 color photographs--provides a great many answers to that question. Familiar garden plants such as marigolds, sunflowers, and

…  See more details below


Experienced gardeners often ask: Why plant annuals? They are common and garish and just don't last.

This anticipated new work by eminent horticulturist Wayne Winterrowd--covering more than 250 genera and 600 species and containing over 250 color photographs--provides a great many answers to that question. Familiar garden plants such as marigolds, sunflowers, and zinnias are lovingly portrayed, as well as new species that the gardener may have only just discovered or never previously encountered. Each species is fully described by appearance, range of color, propagation, culture, climatic preferences, and garden value. In addition, Winterrowd supplies fascinating accounts of the botanical etymology, the origins of common names, and the rich historical lore that surround all plants, familiar and rare alike. Most important, his lifetime of hands-on, practical garden experience crisscrosses these pages, offering a trove of practical advice. The result is a volume that will encourage committed annuals growers in their passion and introduce a whole new world of possibilities to gardeners who have hardly guessed at the riches of these formerly undervalued plants.

A tremendously ambitious work that reflects almost ten years of careful research, observation, and experimentation, Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens is a comprehensive, utterly engaging reference. Arranged alphabetically and with convenient, at-a-glance profiles prefacing each entry, this beautifully designed guide is both a good read and a visual delight.

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Editorial Reviews

Verlyn Klinkenborg
This essential reference book also belongs on the bedside table, where it can be absorbed night by night, species by species, word by word.
The New York Times

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.10(w) x 10.10(h) x 2.00(d)

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Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens

By Wayne Winterrowd

Random House

Copyright (C) 2004 by Wayne Winterrowd
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0679457364

Chapter One

Abelmoschus species

Family: Malvaceae or hibiscus family. Classification: Tender annuals or tender perennials grown as tender annuals. Common Names: Abelmoschus. Hardiness: Resents temperatures much below 40°F. Extremely frost sensitive. Growing Conditions: Very rich, humusy, well-drained soil. Full sun. Propagation: By seed, sown indoors in peat pots 8 to 12 weeks before last frost. Plants resent root disturbance. Height: From 18≤ to 7¢, depending on species. Ornamental Value: Grown for flower. Level of Cultural Difficulty: Easy. Special Properties: A. esculentus valued for edible pods. Pronunciation: a-bel-MOS-kus For gardeners who assume that all botanical language is drawn from Latin or Greek, the name of the genus Abelmoschus provides an interesting lesson, for it is derived from the Arabic abu-l-mosk, which translates as “parent of musk,” attesting to the ancient use of the seeds of some species in perfume. Several species of Abelmoschus are grown in gardens, but none for fragrance in any of their parts. When crushed, they simply smell green, and when dried and crumbled, they merely smell dusty. Still, they are valuable ornamental plants, particularly for gardens that experience long, hot, humid summers, conditions that remind them of their African origins and cause them to flourish and bloom wonderfully well. To most gardeners, the most familiar species in the genus is probably A. esculentus (es-cue-LEN-tus). Called “okra” after its ancient African name and brought by slaves into colonial America, it quickly became almost a staple food in the American South, where its edible pods are stewed with tomatoes, dipped in cornmeal and fried, or best of all, added to thick, savory gumbos. For all its tastiness (the species name esculentus is Latin for savory), it is in itself a quite pretty plant. Though dwarves have been bred, the species naturally produces tall shrublike plants to as much as seven feet, their branches studded here and there with three-inch, lemon-yellow, five-petaled flowers stained with deep purple at their centers. Among species of Abelmoschus, only okra is grown for food, though another closely related species, A. manihot (MAN-uh-hot), is a splendid garden subject. It improves on the ornamental qualities of its kitchen cousin by offering a plant that is elegant in all its parts. In the hot weather of high summer, A. manihot quickly forms a six- to eight-foot-tall, loosely branched plant, shrublike though open in growth, with beautifully crafted upturned, dark green leaves of three, five, or even seven lobes. The stature of the plant and the beauty of its foliage would almost be reason alone to grow it. But from midsummer to frost, each branch is ornamented by five- to six-inch-wide, hibiscus-like flowers, of a beautiful primrose yellow with a deep burgundy stain at their throats. Like all members of Malvaceae, the hibiscus family, the fertile parts of the flower are worth looking at, made up here of bright yellow stamens crowned by a five-branched pistil of rich, plush red. Because of its height, one might suppose that A. manihot would look fine at the back of a border, and so it does. But its beauty of branch, leaf, and flower suggests that it might look even finer when pulled forward to the edge of a path or terrace, or planted anywhere as a single, solitary specimen. Though a separate genus entirely from true hibiscus, all members of Abelmoschus are “hibiscus-like,” some more so than others. Anyone who first saw A. moschatus (mos-KA-tus) growing in a garden would assume it to be a dwarf hibiscus, a genus in which it was once included. Its flowers are five petaled, as are hibiscus, though they never overlap, but rather flare out from the center and fold down at their edges, nicely displaying prominent anthers and pistil, another signature characteristic of the family. The plant is small, hardly ever more than a foot in height, though often twice as wide, shrubby in growth and clad with dark green, lobed leaves against which the flowers seem to glow. They are predominately a rich, coral pink, though darker or lighter colors may result from the same seed sowing. Of whatever related tint, however, the flowers are given special beauty by the shading of each petal toward the center of the blossom, where white is brushed over deeper pink. Individual flowers last for only a day, but in warm weather, they are so abundantly produced that the plant always seems rich in bloom. All members of the genus Abelmoschus love hot, steamy weather, and so little is gained by starting them very early indoors, for they will sulk in the cool, damp conditions of early spring, even when frosts are past. However, for earliest flower, seed of A. manihot might be sown about four to six weeks before the last anticipated frost date. Young plants are severely set back by root disturbance, and so should be sown three seeds to a peat pot, clipping out all but the strongest at transplant time. Germination is rapid at temperatures around 70°F, and young seedlings should be grown on in bright, sunny conditions until the weather is quite warm and settled, at about the time it is safe to transplant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Seed of A. moschatus is rarely available, but as it is a more compact plant requiring a longer period of development, it might well be sown in warm conditions as early as twelve weeks before the last anticipated frost date and grown on in sunny conditions at temperatures around 65° to 70°F. It will more often enter gardens, however, as a lusty, well-branched young plant in plastic six-packs, perhaps already showing the first precocious furled buds. Both A. manihot and A. moschatus require as much sun as possible, and rich, well-drained, humusy soil. Like their edible cousin, A. esculentus, both are also greedy feeders, benefiting from weekly applications of a general, water-soluble fertilizer at half the strength recommended on the package, or, when grown in the open ground, from a sprinkling of balanced, granular garden fertilizer—10-10-10 or the like— applied just after transplants have caught and again a month later. Abronia species

Family: Nyctaginaceae or four o’clock family. Classification: Tender perennial grown as tender annual. Common Names: Sand verbena, wild lantana, abronia. Hardiness: Hardy in Zones 9 and 10. Sensitive to light frosts elsewhere. Growing Conditions: Thin, sandy soil. Full sun. Propagation: From seed, sown indoors 12 weeks before last anticipated frost. Tip cuttings root easily. Height: To 12≤. Ornamental Value: Grown for flower. Level of Cultural Difficulty: Moderately difficult. Special Properties: Used to stabilize sandy soil where hardy. Drought tolerant. Pronunciation: a-BRO-nee-a For eastern gardeners there are so many low-growing, floriferous plants for the front of a border or the edge of a pot that sand verbenas may well be of interest only to native plant specialists, rock gardeners, or other connoisseurs of unusual plants. In coastal California, however, or the Southwest, they are of greater value for they thrive in poor, sandy soil, and are able to stabilize it wherever their lax or procumbent stems touch ground and root. The genus name, from ancient Greek abros, means delicate, attesting to the fragile bracts surrounding each flower, borne in thick, verbena-like clusters atop each stem. But the plants themselves are not at all verbena-like, bearing thick, fleshy leaves—roundish or kidney-shaped—capable of storing water during periods of drought. The species most widely cultivated are native to very temperate climates in the southwestern United States, particularly the coastal regions of California, and though true perennials all may be expected to flower in their first season from an early spring sowing. The three species most commonly grown are Abronia fragrans (fra-GRANS), upright to ten inches, with umbels of white, night-scented flowers; procumbent A. latifolia (la-ti-FO-lee-a), growing into foot-wide mats, furnished in high summer with lemon-yellow flowers; prostrate A. umbellata (um-be-LA-ta), especially in the desirable cultivar ‘Grandiflora’, which produces abundant, rose-pink to purple flowers, ideal for hanging baskets. Seed of any species of Abronia, difficult to find and difficult to germinate, is best sown at temperatures of around 60°F, about twelve weeks from the last anticipated frost date. The outer husks should be removed by gently rubbing the seed between the palms of one’s hands, before soaking it for a day in tepid water. It should then be drained and patted dry on paper towels so that it may be easily dispersed across the potting compost and lightly pressed in. Germination may still be erratic, and young seedlings, prone to mildew and to damping off, must be grown in bright, airy conditions, and possibly treated with a fungicide. Once any abronia has been grown in the garden, it may be carried on from year to year by cuttings taken from tip growths. Inserted in damp, sharp sand in moist, shaded conditions, they should root within three weeks or so. Rooted cuttings may then be potted in free-draining compost, and taken into bright, frost-free conditions for the winter, where they should be watered sparingly to prevent rot. As the days lengthen, water may be increased, and a light application of water-soluble fertilizer be given before transplanting after all danger of frost is past. Abutilon x hybridum Family: Malvaceae or hibiscus family. Classification: Tender shrubs grown as tender annuals. Common Names: Flowering maple, parlor maple, Chinese lantern bush, abutilon. Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 10. Damaged elsewhere by temperatures much below 40°F. Extremely frost tender. Growing Conditions: Humus-rich, well-drained soil. Abundant moisture. Full sun or very bright shade. Propagation: From tip cuttings, which root readily in spring and early summer. Height: Varies, from 1 to 6¢. Ornamental Value: Grown for flower and in some cultivars for ornamental leaves. Level of Cultural Difficulty: Easy. Special Properties: Excellent when trained as standards. Pronunciation: ab-YOU-ti-lon hi-BRI-dum

Because abutilons are winter-hardy in only the warmest parts of North America, they are most familiar as potted shrubs, either for winter bloom or for standing about in the summer garden. And while they may also be bedded out as striking woody accents in mixed borders, all abutilons are flowers to study up close, and so are best featured in pots or planted at the edge of a bed, along a path, or near a terrace, where their beauty may be closely observed. The species name comes from an ancient Arabic word for many mallowlike plants, and gardeners will quickly recognize in these flowers their kinship to other plants in the family Malvaceae—hibiscus, abelmoschus, lavatera, and anisodontea. The distinction of abutilons, however, is that whereas most other members of their family produce their abundant, five-petaled flowers facing outward, abutilons bear theirs discreetly, as little cups dangling from two-inch stems. But as the color of their flowers is unusually vivid, their modesty exists only in the way they carry themselves. In the very limited areas where abutilons are hardy—chiefly southern Florida and the milder areas of the West Coast—gardeners will want to search out both pure species and the finest hybrids to use as free-growing shrubs, espaliers, or even scandent, vinelike plants. In such privileged places, an extensive collection of abutilons would be a wonderful idea, for there are approximately 150 species in the genus, and many showy hybrids. Gardeners in other parts of North America will find all the abutilons they need grouped under the name Abutilon x hybridum, indicating (as the word hybridum always does) a complex intermingling of species and back crosses of hybrids to produce interesting, garden-worthy plants. Within this group will be plants compact or rangy of growth, with leaves lobed like those of sugar maples or arrow-shaped, dark green, white-margined, or speckled over with gold or white. Flowers may be as small as a thimble or as large, almost, as a shot glass, but they are always bell-shaped and down-hanging, and their petals are gossamer-thin, though prominently veined. Flower color will range through pure white and cream to pale and deep yellow, coral, orange, crimson, and deep red. One of the special charms of all abutilons is that their petals emerge from a prominent calyx, which is itself beautifully colored often in some shade of brick red. The hybrid origin of most abutilons in gardens means that they are generally acquired as rooted cuttings, rather than from seed, which is rarely available. Softwood cuttings taken in spring and early summer, when plants are growing lustily, root easily in a mixture of half sharp sand or Perlite and half peat, under warm, closed conditions, after which they may be potted and grown on in rich, free-draining compost. Like most members of the mallow family, abutilons demand a rich, humusy soil, abundant light—in the form of full sun or very bright shade—and plenty of moisture, though with perfect drainage at their roots. They are quick and rank of growth, and so frequently pinching out the tip of each shoot promotes bushy, attractive plants. Like two close members of their family (hibiscus and anisodontea), abutilons are prime candidates for training into standards—small, mop-headed miniature trees. The work takes time and patience—at least two full growing seasons and also a place where the plants may be protected throughout the winter from frost—a greenhouse or heated sun porch. First a strong, central trunk is developed from a rooted cutting, and then, when it has reached the desired height (usually around four feet) its growing tip is pinched, and subsequent growth pinched again, to develop a full, rounded head. Grown this way, abutilons display their dangling flowers to great advantage, and the plant, because of its interesting shape, becomes an important ornament in the summer garden. Acalypha species Family: Euphorbiaceae or spurge family. Classification: Tender shrubs grown as tender annuals. Common Names: Acalypha (other common names vary with species). Hardiness: Hardy in Zone 10. Damaged by temperatures much below 40°F. Extremely frost sensitive. Relish heat. Growing Conditions: Humus-rich, moisture-retentive, well-drained soils. Full sun in cooler gardens, afternoon shade in warmer ones. Propagation: From tip cuttings, rooted in spring. Height: To 2¢ when grown as an annual. To 5¢ if carried over as a cool greenhouse plant. Ornamental Value: A. hispida grown for ropelike inflorescences; A. wilkesiana for colored leaves. Level of Cultural Difficulty: Easy. Special Properties: Interesting winter cool greenhouse or houseplants.


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