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Annuals Garden

Season 2017: How Sweet It Is! 

Cherry pink, lime green, lemon yellow, and luscious lavender are the colors of the 2017 annual bed theme, “How Sweet It Is.”

Our confectionery of annuals

Many of this season’s annuals sound sweet enough to eat! Featured flowers include:

  • chocolate flower (Berlandiera),
  • spearmint,
  • cherry-caramel phlox,
  • super parfait raspberry dianthus,
  • lemon-drop torenia,
  • strawberry vinca, and
  • zinnias in lime green, raspberry-lemonade, and double-hot cherry.

In addition, iconic candy shapes, formed from flowers, are hidden in three of the square annual beds.

We think you’ll love our giant M&M, candy corn, and candy heart!

And if you think you smell chocolate, it’s not your imagination — it’s the cocoa-shell mulch edging those beds.

The first view for arriving visitors is the entry bed, a rainbow of annuals in sherbet-y shades against a backdrop of tropical rose cannas. The ribbon of color in the lower McKay bed is formed by lavender vinca and lemon marigolds, with a candy-striped border of rose and white begonias.

The candy theme carries through in the McKay Plaza flowerbed where our version of “The Good Ship Lollipop,” stuffed with multicolored blooms, sails on a sea of lime-green Ipomoea (sweet potato vine). The boat-shaped planter is flanked by rose and white begonias and vanilla cream marigolds.

The two small beds at the upper and lower ends of the plaza, one in sun and the other in shade, exhibit All-America selections (AAS), including 2017 winners Asian Garden Celosia and bi-colored pink EnduraScape™ Verbena.

For added interest, annual bed 16 displays this season’s “mystery plant.” Hint: Its blossom resembles a hibiscus, and its “seed” is edible. Look on the back of the plant stake for the correct answer.

Lily Bed redesigned and replanted

After you’ve sampled our confectionery of annuals, we recommend a stroll through the grounds to the true lily bed (between the Butterfly Garden and the Dahlia Plot). Last fall the Green Team, inspired by a donation from long-time volunteer Katherine Carothers, redesigned and replanted this bed. The original lily bulbs, which had spread and become unidentifiable after many years, were replaced with a dozen new varieties: eight Asiatic lilies and four Oriental lilies. (Asiatics bloom earlier, are unscented, and tend to be shorter than Orientals, which can be recognized by their heart-shaped leaves and larger flowers.) A path of wood chips winds through the lily bed, making it easier for visitors to view the blooms up close. The entire bed is surrounded by a border of perennial artemisia.


AAS Display Garden

AAS-Corporate-LogoEvery year the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens looks forward to receiving sample flower seeds or plugs that have been named All-America Selections based on their garden performance in tests conducted throughout the United States.

  • During Season 2017, the two small beds at the upper and lower ends of the plaza, one in sun and the other in shade, exhibit All-America selections (AAS), including 2017 winners Asian Garden Celosia and bi-colored pink EnduraScape™ Verbena.
  • The 2016 AAS-award-winning bedding plants included two types of geraniums (‘Brocade Cherry Night’ and ‘Brocade Fire’) and the first-ever lavender-colored salvia, called ‘Lavender Jewel’. 
  • AAS also kindly sent Pink Flame Bounce Impatiens and Spreading Shell Pink Sunpatiens, both 2015 winners.

Many of the flowers in the other annual beds are also previous AAS winners, as noted on their identification stakes.

We hope visitors to this summer’s gardens find a lot to smile about!

[ Article by Kennie Harris. ]

About the Dubuque Arboretum Annual Gardens

What lends more cheerfulness to gardens than annual plants?

For a show of pure color, few plants can measure up to the contribution of annuals in a garden.

Annuals-500x339-WThe Annual Gardens in the Dubuque Botanical Gardens are easily spotted. As you approach the Visitor Center, you’ll come upon a vast area of large and smaller beds bursting with color. Without doubt, you have reached the annual beds!

As you make your way along the pathways in this area, you may notice that the majority of these beds follow a theme. Each year a different theme is designed and carried out by members of the Green Team. Garden volunteers and patrons sometimes get into the spirit by suggesting themes for upcoming years. Recent themes:

  • “Victorian Sentiments: Say It with Flowers” (2015) reflected the popular Victorian custom of communicating special meanings through flowers.
  • “Fiesta in Red, White, & Green (2014) showcased thousands of annual flowers and foliage plants in gala shades of red, white, and green.
  • “Monet Inspiration” (2013) painted the beds in a profusion of pinks and lavenders and whites reminiscent of Monet’s Giverny.
  • “South of the Border” (2012) displayed a palette with bright yellows and oranges and reds.

Geraniums. Don’t miss the long planter near the Visitor Center. The exuberant, reliable plants in this container are geraniums. These special geraniums have been saved over nineteen winters and replanted. Flowering from early summer to mid fall, they are a favorite of gardeners. 

Coleus. Many of the coleus in the beds near the geraniums are grown from cuttings each year. They are dubbed “Mary’s coleus” after a volunteer in the Visitor Center who has supplied us with cuttings of special varieties of coleus from her beds. 

Annuals-in-Greenhouse-500x375-WBecause annual plants …

  • grow from seed,
  • flower,
  • produce new seeds, and
  • die during a single growing season

… they are ideal for providing changing color from year to year in gardens.

Greenhouse activities. Dubuque Botanical Garden volunteers can be found in January in the greenhouse — packets of seed in hand! — ready to start the germination process. During the early months of each calendar year, thousands of annuals gradually fill two greenhouses as volunteers upgrade seedlings into pots ready to be planted in mid-May.

The devotion of volunteers and the cycles of nature are abundantly displayed in the Annual Gardens.

[ Description provided by Mary Reuland. ]

Learn more about planting annuals in our video tutorial section.