By Jeff Ray

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — Last October I spent (what I consider) a large chunk of change on some winter color. I bought pansies, dianthus and lambs ear and put them in my show beds in the front yard next to the door. This was by far the largest annual planting I’ve ever done, most of my garden are eatables and perennials.

I can’t tell you how happy I was that I did this. In the dead of winter, I had this vibrant color across my front beds. Even the big freeze event (I let the snow cover them instead of a blanket) didn’t bring them down, the pansies and dianthus (where are actually perennials) perked right back and continued their 5-month long show. I consider the extravagance money well spent.

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And now it is time to pull them out of their roots (the pansies: the dianthus stays as a flower-less, not so attractive plant all summer). Not much of a thank you for their fine service I know, but the upcoming string of 80° days spells their doom. The summer heat is the end of them. I must have color right back in the same place now that I’ve spoiled myself with a front yard flower show.

Steve Huddleston is my go-to person from the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. I went to him for some advice on what to plant. Over the next two weeks you’ll see a couple of stories on this; there is a wide selection to make your decision on. I also included some shade plants suggestions. Also, there is a story I did last summer near the bottom of the archive called “Adding Summer Color to Your Garden”. It includes a selection of perennials I would also recommend. I planted the Brazilian Rock Rose to a bed in my back yard.

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Every yard is different I know, but in mine I have two “show” beds in the front, both about 10-feet long and about 3-feet deep. One gets some dappled sunshine, the other about six hours of direct sun. Both beds face the east and are protected from the harsh afternoon sun.

I plan to stack three plants in, using the Blue Plumbago in the back, then either the Vinca (for the full sun bed) and the Pentas (for the part-shade bed) in the middle row. In the front I’m going to try the Blue Daze and let that spill (a little bit) over the edge of the slightly raised bed. If you haven’t planted annuals before I asked Steve to also give some advice on how to do that. If you want to avoid a mistake I’ve made in the past, make sure you know the heights of your plants (when they reach maturity) and the recommended spacing. Also, make sure to lay out your bed with the plants still in their container before you plant them. There have been too many times I didn’t get the spacing, color distribution or height order right in my head and had to plant them twice.

Ask your nursery for the best flower fertilizer they have; don’t worry about trying to get the exact same three-number combination Steve shows in the planting advice (19-13-6). Just buy one that is close to the same ratio of high phosphorus. And don’t forget the mulch; that allows you to keep your watering demand to once or twice a week depending on the heat.

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Make the world more beautiful then you found it. Growing a little summer color helps spread a little summer joy.