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annuals

Early Spring Planting Ideas.

Well it’s just around the corner and if you have a green thumb you are probably itching to get out there!  Here in the Midwest the weather can change every 15 minutes!  So, if you think those plants are ready to be planted, let’s make sure you select the most cold hardy to get you through to warmer weather!

Pansy and Violas are pretty popular in spring and fall, that’s because they can withstand a frost or two.  The great thing about them is they come in so many colors!  They are such fun plants to brighten up a sleepy and tired landscape, either in planting beds or containers.

Prepotted bulbs are another must in your containers!  Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and the list goes on!  When planted they may not seem like much at first, but as soon as the days grow a little warmer your patience will be rewarded.  Pops of color will abound.

Annuals you might not have considered:

There are a number of plants we consider cold hardy and are typically used for early spring (you can find more ideas here) but there are a few summer annuals that might just surprise you.  These annuals can take the cool weather as well as the heat, making them a great all season plant(s)!

Petunias, don’t mind the cooler days and nights and keep going through the whole year.  With so many new varieties it’s easy to not fall in love with them, from the spreading Wave petunias to the mini petunia-like Calibrachoa.   Not to mention they come in almost all the colors of the rainbow!  A great multi season plant.

Snapdragons are another summer annual that can take the heat and take the cold!  Dwarf Snapdragons can provide early bloom color while taller varieties will bring later color, a great way to “cover” the faded bulb blooms.  Just make sure to keep feeding your snapdragons to get continued bloom throughout the season!

Alyssum’s have come a long way.  They used to be summer only annuals, but newer varieties are taking the cold as much as the heat!  These sweetly fragrant plants go from frost to summer and to fall with no problem.  A great annual to cascade over your planters.

Perennials in containers.

Perennials are another way to get color and texture into your planters.  There are many spring blooming perennials that can add a twist to your typical bulb and pansy planters.  Columbines and Hellebores are great early bloomers! While Heuchera is a great foliage plant that comes in a variety of colors from greens, purples, to yellows and an added bonus of wispy blooms late in the spring.

Vegetables and Herbs.

And lastly make those containers multi-purpose gardens, for display and for food!  Plant cool weather veggies like lettuce, rhubarb and parsley for a fun mix.

This planter contains some of the early lettuce crops in the center.

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Plants for fall color!

Shorter days, cooler nights, bring on the fall colors!  Fall foliage is a result of plants no longer producing chlorophyll (the food for plants and what makes leaves green).  As the chlorophyll begins to break down we start to see yellows and oranges and some plants have further chemical changes which in turns gives us red and purples.  But enough about how it happens, here are some great plants to consider for a brilliant display this fall.

To really impact your fall garden make sure to include plants that will turn those beautiful bright reds, oranges and purples.  Red maples and Sugar maples are great shade trees that produce brilliant fall color.  The Red maple will give bright red leaves while the Sugar maples give a multicolored show of oranges, yellows and some red.  They both are really spectacular!  One of the most amazing and unique trees for brilliant yellow fall color are the Gingko biloba trees.  Be sure to select a non fruiting variety, the downside of fruiting varieties is the smell of the rotting fruit (eek)!

Don’t forget to layer your landscape with smaller ornamentals and shrubs to spread the fall color throughout!  Serviceberry trees give good yellow-orange colors, while Japanese maples can give a bright red from the red leafed varieties and vibrant oranges from the green leafed varieties.  Oakleaf hydrangea not only produce showy blossoms but turn beautiful shades of reds and purples in the fall!

Lets not forget flowers!  There are number of great annuals and perennials that will flower into fall!  Annual mums, coneflowers and pansies will get that pop of color where your summer annuals are starting to fizzle.  Perennials such as Asters, Russian Sage, Goldenrod bloom from late September into October!  Don’t let your garden fade away, but rather go out with a bang of color!

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Brrrr…what to do when it’s just too cold to go outdoors!

We’ve had a few days of bitter cold, I know I’d rather spend my days inside when it’s this cold.  So now is  a great time to make a plan on what needs to be done in the landscape for the coming year!

Right about now you may have an influx of gardening catalogs arriving at your doorstop.  Grab them and get to planning!  It’s a great time to plan on what annuals you may want to include in your outdoor planters or in your planting beds.  If you have a green thumb it’s also a great time to start selecting seeds for starting indoors, as the time to start them will be March/April!  I like to review how my annuals did the previous year (sometimes that new plant just doesn’t pan out like you thought it would) or I may decide to change up my color palette.  I select my go to favorites and then do my research on new and upcoming annuals.  Every year is a little different! I like to check out the Proven Winners first!

Be sure to review your perennial garden.  Think about what performed well, what is outgrowing it’s designated space, what didn’t perform well.  Make a plan on possibly thinning plants, moving them to better suited locations or if they need to be divided.  When the season hits us we often forget what needs to be done and we don’t want to miss those opportunities!

Make plans by using sketches, photos or notes from the previous year to plan for the new year!

Plan and budget for new projects (or like me completing old projects!).  For example maybe your front walk is starting to crumble, time for an upgrade possibly, or you’ve always wanted to have your own vegetable garden and finally have the time to put one in, or finish those projects that just never got completed from the year before.  Make a plan and stick to it!  You’ll be thanking yourself when all is complete and you have the best landscape in the neighborhood!

This pallet of bluestone is waiting for spring to complete a late fall project from last year!

Lastly make sure all your garden tools are ready for the new year.  Does you lawnmower need a tuneup, now is the time to get that complete.  Do you have all the hand tools you need, maybe it’s time for a new pair of hand pruners, or that old broken shovel needs replacing.  You don’t want to waste your garden time by running around trying to get all the supplies you need.

Remember gardening is good for you!

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Bring flowers inside with a cutting garden.

I love a good vegetable garden.  You get the benefit of home grown herbs and veggies and the satisfaction of doing it  yourself.  But I also love flowers!  That is why I also plant a small cutting garden so that I may enjoy flowers inside my home as well as outside!

You’ll get the most flowers from annuals, here are a few of my favorites!

Dahlia (vase life 5-7 days)-these come in an array of colors and sizes.  Some blooms are so big they call them dinner plate dahlias!

Zinnia (vase life 7-10 days)-you’ll want the medium to tall ones to use for cut flowers.  The more you cut them the more flowers will bloom!

Celosia (vase life 10-14 days)-these are either a plume type (feathery spike) or crested (rounded mass).  They come in bright colors and also make great dried flowers.

Cosmos (vase life 4-6 days)-these are like sweet overgrown daisies to me.  They come a spectrum of pinks and white.  They are delicate but pretty flowers.

Larkspur (vase life 5-7 days)-this is the annual version of your perennial delphinium.  Impressive spikes of blues, pinks and white!

Snapdragon (vase life 7-10 days)-another impressive spike in an array of colors.

Sweet peas (vase life 4-5 days)-this is a vine so you’ll need a trellis.  But the fragrance is why I love these.  They smell like heaven!

As you fill your vase with fresh cut flowers be sure to check out the landscape as well.  There are  a number of perennials and shrubs that will help beef up that arrangement.  Look for hydrangeas in bloom, grasses for a wispy elegance, foliage from trees and shrubs and the list goes on!

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Winter landscape dull no more!

Brighten your winter landscape by decorating your annual pots and beds with evergreens.  Or lighting your trees to make a festive glow. There are so many options available that can really make your landscape pop!

We like to use:

  • many assorted evergreens, to give each of our designs depth.
  • branches such as magnolia, winterberry and birch poles to give height and dimension.
  • accents to make each design your own: pine cones, ribbon, ornaments!

We design around your style and tastes.  Contact us for more information.

This area of the home is where most of the activity occurs, so it was the perfect area to decorate.

Birch poles give these planters much needed height in this open area.

Accents selected by the homeowner are added to the front entry pots.

A metal sphere adds a twist to this entrance planter!

Don’t forget to light up your landscape!

photo by Linda Oyama Bryan

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You don’t have to wait til May…

To have beautiful spring flowers.

There is that small window of time from winter to full on spring where we are stuck with not much blooming around us.  An easy remedy is to fill your planters and a few planting beds with forced blooming plants.  From pansies, tulips to hyacinths it’s easy to get that burst of much need color!

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Just because…

Just because the leaves have fallen, the grass goes dormant and it’s getting cold doesn’t mean you can’t spruce up your annual pots!

There aren’t any “winter” flowers to add but you sure can display some beautiful winter greens in your pots!

What a warm welcome on a cold day!

There is quite the assortment of beautiful evergreens in varying shades of green to blue that will last until spring.  Add in branches, berries, pine cones and seed pods.  For added color you can include ribbons or lights!  It’s all up to your imagination, don’t let the winter doldrums limit you!

Holiday Pot

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Don’t want to brave the cold, then call on our team to get the job done for you! Just contact us here: Van Zelst, Inc.

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Bring on spring!

Extending the look and the season by adding containers throughout the landscape is a terrific way to accessorize–in a small space or as focal points within a sweeping environment.  Containers allow you to incorporate plants into the patio or near the home, add height and artistic appeal, and update the garden from season to season.

We can start by punctuating the landscape with bursts of color as early as Late March into April.  We use forced bulbs, branches, pansies, and other cold hardy annuals to welcome spring. Contact us now, Van Zelst Inc, to bring instant color to your yard!

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Has Fall finally arrived?

Is summer really over?  It’s starting to feel like fall with cooler days and nights.   Let’s talk about fun fall annuals.  We mostly think of, and see, a lot of mums and pansies.  But there are a plethora of other plants to fill your landscape with later fall colors!

As with most annuals we look forward to various colored flowers, but did you know that you can also use leafy greens and ornamental peppers to spice up you fall planters?!

Ornamental peppers produce colorful little fruits that are round or pointed. They are so attractive in their own right that they can be grown just for show — not eating. The peppers are indeed edible, but usually flavor is lacking compared to peppers grown for the table.

Kale is the new super-food, but did you know ornamental kale and cabbage look great with mums and pansies?  They are varied in colors and texture.  And the cooler it gets the brighter the colors become!  And like the ornamental peppers these plants are also edible (but really are too pretty to consume!).

Another great foliage plant to add to your planters is Heuchera.  There are many varied  colors from golden yellow, deep purple to caramel colored leaves!  These plants are actually perennials but can serve as an “annual” in your planters.

Whether you mix them up or plant en mass, there are lots of options for fall color!
Contact us now to get your garden blooming for fall!

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If it feels like fall, it must be!

My favorite time of year.  Although our first official fall day won’t be until September 23rd!  With a string of cooler days and nights the plants are telling us fall is coming!  Some of the leaves are just starting to change and the summer annuals are looking pretty sad.  So now is the time to switch it up and add some color to those planters.  You could get another two months from them!

So fall makes you think of mums, kale and pansies.  These might be the staples of the fall annual garden but there are lots of other materials you can use to brighten up those fall planters.

Check out these fun planters filled with color and fun textures!

This one is filled with pretty purple mums, bold annual rudbeckias, millet, weeping ornamental pepper plants and pansies. It certainly brightens up a drab corner.


This planter is accented with a fun contrast of purple and white. We used annual fountain grass, black pearl peppers, himalayan honeysuckle, ornamental kale, mums, pansies, weeping ornamental pepper and then accented it with a cute white pumpkin.

Try mixing it up by adding some of these accents to your fall planter!

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