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
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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