Planting for a quick fix

For any one of a number of reasons, you may need to find a short-term planting solution: to fill in a gap created by the loss of a permanent plant, to help cover bare soil in a new garden until the perennials and shrubs flesh out and take over, or to create color in summer during the famous early summer “gap,” when the first flush of flower color has died down and the second has yet to begin.

Fast-growing annuals are ideal for this purpose and are available in sizes and colors ranging from towering sunflowers (Helianthus) to tiny jewels, such as sapphire-blue lobelia or multi­colored Livingstone daisies (Dorothea not hits bellidiformis), which are ideal for containers.

Annuals are normally grown from seed or bought in trays from the garden center as young plants. It is clearly less expensive to buy seed, but the seedlings will need care and attention in the form ol frequent watering; it is easy to lose an entire sowing through neglect or, in colder climates, from planting out too early, when a late frost may strike. Young, tender plants are a great attraction lor slugs and snails, so make sure you have taken care of the problem either by using slug pellets or, il you wish to garden organically, using slug traps containing beer.

Taller displays

Among the last-growing plants that will oiler you excellent gap-filling color in a summer border is the I lowering tobacco plant, with its handsome large, soft apple green leaves and heads of scented white Mowers. It w ill grow to around 5 It. tall and generally germinates easily from seed. Sander’s tobacco (Nicotiana x sanderae) varieties in mixed colors, growing to about 24 in.
tall, could be used in front of this Species. The deep red and lime-green flowered forms look particularly good.

Grouped displays

An ill white display would look effective in most planting schemes; it can be used to fill a gap in a border, or it could even make a corner planting on its nun. Grow the tallest plants of flowering tobacco and plume pop at the back, with while snapdragons (Antirrhinum ‘White Wonder’), while impatiens {Impatiens), and white candy tuft (Iheris amara) at the front.
Smaller forms of the towering sunflower are also invaluable for summer borders, as are the brilliant (lowers ol the daisy-like cosmos {Cosmos). Plant the two species together for a dazzling display of clashing colors.

If you plant small annuals in containers, you can group the display to make it more eye catching. To enliven a hare wall, put plants into wall containers and hang them on brackets.

Small displays

Infill plants for the front of a border include the bright orange French marigold (Tagetes palula); the poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii), with its mass of bright yellow, white-bordered I lowers; scented stocks (Matthiola incana), with purple, pink, or white I lowers in short spikes; and California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), with wonderful, bright orange flowers that last all summer.


For additional height, grow the exquisitely scented and singularly beautiful sweet pea. Sweet peas come in a range of brilliant colors. but the very deep crimson— almost black—sweet peas have great appeal. Equally good are climbing nasturtiums, with their soft, rounded green leaves and brilliant orange, yellow, or scarlet flowers. Both of these climbers will need supports.

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