Annual Performance Review.


Begonia benariensis ‘Surefire™ Rose’

I planted more annuals in my flowerbeds this year than I usually do: verbena in mixed jewel-like colours, hot red and orange Tagetes marigolds, and a few delicate pink snapdragons (with the notion that they would complement the handsome dark burgundy heritage ‘Black Prince’ that has been reseeding itself for the past three summers).  Anyone who regularly follows my blog knows how the story of the verbena ended:  the bunnies ate them (well, most of them, anyway).  And the snapdragons?  Well, let’s just say the little divas didn’t like the weather.  Or the soil.  Or something.  Even the Prince, usually so reliable, forgot his lines and stalked off the stage in a huff.  In the midst of all this chaos, the marigolds have managed to put on a brave, inspired performance, but really, once again, I’m questioning my ability to select annuals that don’t end up as rabbit chow AND keep on delivering.  It’s not too much to ask for, is it?  Well, okay, maybe….

At least, as far as my containers went, there were some definite big-time superstars.  I love begonias, but up until now, I’ve only grown tuberous types – I’ve got an ooey gooey soft spot for the rose-like flowers and all those magnificent colours!  But the fibrous (wax) begonia ‘Surefire™ Rose’ (one of Proven Winners’ new selections that will be available to home gardeners in 2014) easily won me over…the bronzy-green foliage is big and bold and the coral-red flowers persisted all summer long (they’re still going strong as I write this).  One of the reasons I like begonias so much is that they’re so low maintenance – water when needed, feed a bit of diluted liquid kelp twice a month, and…well…stand back and admire.  No staking, no deadheading, no hassle – and ‘Surefire™ Rose’ fits the bill nicely.  Call me a lazy gardener, but that’s just the way I like it.   Now if only I could poll the rabbits and find out what their least favourite flower is!   😉

What annuals performed best in your garden this year?

Do you grow begonias (of any type)?  Did you make the switch from impatiens to begonias due to downy mildew concerns?

(Although Proven Winners generously provided me with a few annual plant selections from their upcoming 2014 catalogue to trial in my zone 3 garden, I was not compensated to review them.  My opinions of how they performed are my own).


  1. I love begonias but I haven’t grown them for awhile. Impatiens needed too much water so I have given up on those. I really can’t decide what I am going to grow this summer but it needs to be hardy. I don’t have to worry about rabbits. Only slugs and snails.

    • I don’t like the cute rabbits eating everything in sight, but slugs and snails would be worse (slimy!). What do you usually plant that seems to be fairly pest resistant? You have to deal with arid conditions, too, right? (Much like we do, but with more heat).

    • Yes, you’re right. I use it on all my plants, including the ones in the house. (I do use compost and vermicompost as well in the garden, not just the kelp). You can buy the kelp at any good garden centre (I haven’t seen it in the big box stores). But I’m wondering if you couldn’t just harvest some of the stuff you find on the island, mix it with water and puree it together…? I don’t see why not. The stuff I buy in the store is concentrated, so I have to mix it with water to give it to my plants – you might have to do the same with stuff you’ve harvested and liquefied. You would have to experiment so you don’t give your plants too much at once.

      UPDATED: I just had a thought about salt content…I’m assuming the companies that manufacture the commercial product probably remove most of it, as it wouldn’t be good for plants. I wonder how you could accomplish that if you were making your own.

  2. I have only ever had the tuberous ones before, but to be honest I am not keen on the waxy leafed ones. Not sure if they’d stand the sun anyway… My best annuals this year were most definitely the geraniums (pelargoniums). I took cuttings last autumn and all but one did well and produced amazing plants. Just took more cuttings for next year. 😀 My problem here is the slugs and snails (and sometimes mice), so I have to choose annuals that aren’t tasty for them. Have given up on Dahlias, Marigolds, Cosmos, Cleome…. and many more! (Thank goodness I don’t have to contend with rabbits too!)

    • I did put this container in a part shade location, but apparently these types of wax begonias can take a bit of sun (I’m not sure how much, however…something to test in the future, I suppose). I think sometimes the wax types tend to get a bit lanky and that’s really annoying, but I didn’t notice this with these – again, I’m not certain if that’s “normal” or not.

      Geraniums are so beautiful – and fairly pest resistant! That’s a great idea to take cuttings…they’re rather expensive to buy year after year (at least here) so that would be a way of saving money (and creating more robust plants!).

  3. I don’t have any annuals but my neighbor likes petunias. We can get dry in the summer so the flowers do need a lot of attention.

  4. How I love those begonia’s! Definetley on my list for next year. This garden is just new to me and I went from a zone 4 in Canada to now a zone 6 in South Ohio! I see gardens here with certain cactuses and palmlike trees: that will need further inverstigation! Have a lovely Sunday and a big hug from Ohio

    • I hope you had a wonderful weekend as well – I haven’t gotten a chance to read any of my e-mail just yet but I believe I saw that you had posted on your blog. I look forward to reading! 🙂 In your new garden, you will be able to experiment with all sorts of plants that you couldn’t grow before – it will be such fun for you!

  5. I’m also a fan of begonias. They remind me of my mom, who loved them too in her day.

    My new favorite this year is Bachelor Buttons. I grew an assortment from seed. They’ve flowered continually for weeks in blues, pinks and purples. They’re a favorite of the birds as well.

    Love your photo!

  6. I don’t grow Begonias but like Cerinthe major Purpurascens, trailing Verbena, Helichrysum, Ipomoea batatas, Geraniums and the likes for containers. It gets very hot here too so I have to be a bit prudent with my choice.

    • It’s true, containers can be so tricky to maintain in high heat – we’ve been lucky this year with the extra humidity and little wind (although that has spawned all sorts of insect and other disease infestations), we haven’t had to water as much as usual. I had forgotten about Helichrysum until you mentioned it – I’ve always liked it and should put it in my containers next year.

  7. Nothing beats the wow factor like tuberous begonias in bloom. The flowers are large and colors are so bold. They seem to reach out to my guests who are coming up the walk to welcome them. Even though my environment lends itself to pests I have been very fortunate over the past several years and have not had to battle that problem.

    • If you like begonias, you might really enjoy this one. I was certainly quite impressed and happy with its performance.

      And, nasturtiums! I really have to plant them one of these years – I love them, and I’ve yet to try them. Next year! 🙂

  8. I have to admit begonias are not one of my favourites. I never seem to have good luck with them. However, I love any plants from Proven Winners (no, I was not paid to say that) so I may try this plant next year. Hope all is well with you! ~Thea

    • I would definitely recommend this begonia (I think there will be other colours available as well)…we’ve now had frost a couple of times and I didn’t bother to cover my containers. The begonias still look amazing. Tough plants! 🙂

      • We just had our first major frost last night. It actually looks quite pretty. I am thinking I will try some begonias next year in the front garden bed that faces north. ~Thea

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