Each year the National Garden Bureau chooses one perennial, bulb and annual to highlight as their “Year of the” varieties. “Each is chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile,” their website states. In 2016, they’ve chosen Begonia as their annual, Allium as their bulb and Delphinium as their perennial to highlight. We can’t be more thrilled – all three of these are some of our favorites to grow and we’re excited to have a reason to talk more about them.
Begonias are shade-loving beauties that produce some of the most colorful and awe-inspiring blooms in the garden, often doing their best in containers. “With over 1,700 different species, Begonias (family Begoniaceae) is the fifth most diverse class of plants,” says the National Garden Bureau. “Begonias are often found wild from South and Central America to India. It is impossible to know exactly where they originated, but stories of plants matching their description date back to 14th century China.”
These historic plants can be grown in almost any part of the country, but should be started indoors at least a month before being brought outside, to ensure summer blooms. Begonias require shade, regular watering and feeding, so they are best planted on the patio or in an easy-to-reach spot. That said, Begonias also do perfectly well planted in the ground and the blooms, often reaching 5-6” across, make a colorful statement anywhere in the garden.
Out of the many species, we carry two that thrive in North American gardens. Hanging Basket Begonias have a weeping, cascading plant structure and do best planted in containers, where blooms can elegantly hang off the side. Tuberous Begonias are the most popular variety, with large, Camellia-like blooms in single and double form.
Pollinators – especially hummingbirds – flock to the nectar-rich flowers, creating a spectacle in the garden and helping the pollinator population. Begonias are also a versatile plant for gardeners living in colder regions – when frost threatens, simply bring your pot indoors and enjoy your Begonia inside for the winter months.
Learn more about growing Begonias in our blog.
With wonderfully unique blooms, ornamental Allium often steals the show in the late spring garden. Although we’ve always been a fan of this versatile and easy-to-grow bulb, they have only recently become popular in home gardens throughout the country. “In recent years, alliums have been used to great effect in the naturalistic plantings of garden designers such as Piet Oudolf and James van Sweden,” says the National Garden Bureau. “They are ideal companions for ornamental grasses and other low maintenance perennials such as sedum, rudbeckia, echincacea and salvia.”
Besides being the perfect companion for early-blooming perennial varieties, Allium are also deer resistant, making them the perfect choice for gardeners with pesky critters digging up their bulbs. The globe-like blooms also attract a variety of pollinators to the garden and naturalize each year, hardy through zones 2-3.
Ornamental Allium come in a wide variety of colors and sizes, ranging from small, rainbow colors to the popular large, purple Gladiator and Globemaster. All varieties of Allium are extremely easy to grow and tolerate almost any soil type, requiring little water and maintenance. Planted in the fall, these spring-blooming beauties look best planted in clumps and add a unique statement to your early season garden.
Learn more about Allium in our blog.
Elegant, spiky blue flowers are famous in cottage gardens, but Delphinium integrates well into any garden or meadow. “Delphinium, a native throughout the Northern Hemisphere, includes about 300 species in the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) Family,” says the National Garden Bureau. “The name ‘delphinium’ originated with the ancient Greeks who thought the shape of the new flower bud with spur resembled that of a dolphin’s nose.” Also known as Larkspur, this popular perennial can be grown from seed or purchased as an established plant.
Wild Delphinium, also known as Rocket Larkspur, is famous in the dried flower trade and grown from seed. Gorgeous spikes of red, blue, pink, white and purple add unique color and texture to the summer garden or meadow and attract a variety of pollinators. Wild Delphinium is extremely easy to grow, can be planted in any sunny spot and makes for gorgeous cut flowers.
Delphinium, or Larkspur, boasts spikes of brightly colored flowers in a wide variety of cool colors. The easy-to-grow plants form mounds of dark green, glossy foliage topped in early summer by the dramatic, spurred flowers that are perfect for bouquets. Taller varieties form an incredible backdrop for perennial plantings and all types look at home in both formal and informal beds. Plant them in full sun in an area sheltered from strong winds.
If you’re still putting together your planting ideas for this spring, we suggest including these three versatile, easy-to-grow varieties in your garden or meadow.