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Annuals versus Perennials

It had been several years since we first moved into our house, when I decided that I wanted to plant some flowers to brighten up the landscape. The logical decision, since I thought that I only new a little about gardening, was to go to the local greenhouse. The owner was extremely helpful and friendly and asked deep, probing questions. Well, he asked one question. I mentioned that I thought I only knew a little about gardening. It turns out I knew nothing. I couldn’t answer his first question – “Annual or Perennial.”

I told him that I wanted whichever one of them grew flowers. He laughed – I’m sure he was laughing WITH me – and said they both grow flowers. I figured some education was in order, so I asked him what was the difference between an annual and perennial.

He said the difference was simple. Annuals only last for a year. You plant them in the spring, enjoy them in the summer, and by fall they’re becoming next year’s fertilizer. In some cases, they will reseed themselves so you’ll see a similar plant the following year, but it will not be the same plant.

Based on his description, I assumed perennials were the flowers that kept coming back year after year after year. They would live on forever. The man at the greenhouse said I was close. Perennials actually have a life cycle that extends past a single growing season and usually into three, four, or five years.

I still wasn’t sure what he meant. He said that perennials are like a haircut. It grows until it gets too long and then you cut it. The hair hasn’t died, it’s just become shorter. That’s the winter months for a perennial. It grows and then the flowering part dies until the next year where it grows out again – just like my hair. As I rubbed my temple, I recalled my receding hairline. My forehead wasn’t this high a year ago. That’s when it clicked about the perennials. They live for several years – like my hair – grower taller every year, and then they start to weaken and die – again, just like my hair. He said that I knew exactly what he was talking about now.

Thanks to the advertisement I had just received in the mail, I knew that hair could be replaced. It was the same for the perennials, he said. After a few years it was a good idea to replace them with more viable plants.

I thanked the man for the education he had given me. I now understood that an annual plant only lasts for a year. A perennial lasts for many years. He said it was a good idea to mix the two when it came time for my garden. Together we picked out a nice matching assortment of plants, paid for them, and walked out to my car. Now … where are my keys?

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Annuals versus Perennials
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