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Annual Gardens

2016 Season: Annual Beds are Colorful and Eco-Friendly

Cheerful shades of yellow, orange, and rose are brightening the annual flowerbeds this summer as we “Let the Sunshine In.”


Visitors who pass the entry flowerbed view a sunny circle of ‘Dreamland Yellow’ zinnias bordered by ‘Dreamland Rose’ zinnias, with ‘Safari Orange’ and ‘Bonanza Yellow’ marigolds filling out the rest of the space.  The centerpiece of the upper McKay Plaza bed is a sunburst of short yellow and orange marigolds flanked by ‘Magellan Orange’ zinnias, ‘Alumia Vanilla Cream’ marigolds, and our old-reliable ‘Super Olympia Rose’ begonias. The lower McKay bed repeats those same flowers in triangular-shaped mass plantings.

The 16 square flowerbeds feature traditional flowers in the theme colors as well as some less familiar types. On the shady side, look for ‘Lemon Drop’ and ‘Vivid Rose’ Torenia; New Guinea impatiens in ‘Florific Sweet Orange’; and a deep-rose Nicotiana. Following are some of this season’s other noteworthy plants:

  • ‘Alumia Vanilla Cream’ is a brand-new variety of short marigold in a soft, buttery yellow.
  • An annual Rudbeckia called ‘Tiger Eye Gold’ is like a Black-Eyed Susan, only better, because it blooms all summer long.
  • Calendula, also known as “pot marigold” or “poor man’s saffron,” was once a common ingredient in German soups and stews and can serve as a natural dye. Our ‘Bon-Bon Mix’ has yellow and orange flowers.
  • The ‘African Sunset’ petunia was named a 2014 All-America Selections (AAS) bedding plant based on its “designer color.” It is considered the first true orange petunia to be grown from seed. Ours are arranged in a circle and bordered with a hybrid Calibrachoa in Kabloom Yellow.
  • Annual Bed 16 is an experimental bed, planted with an ornamental eggplant called “Pumpkin-on-a-Stick.” While we wait for its tiny dark-orange fruit to develop later this summer, the borders of the bed are spiced up with two varieties of ornamental peppers, NuMex Easter and Chilly Chili.

The color scheme for the two oblong flowerbeds in the annual gardens incorporates ‘Evolution Violet’ salvia bordered by ‘Profusion Double Yellow’ zinnias and small orange marigolds. The two bi-level beds follow color schemes in orange/purple and yellow/purple, respectively, complemented by ornamental peppers in similar shades. 

AAS Display Garden

AAS-Corporate-LogoEvery year the DABG 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. The 2016 AAS-award-winning bedding plants include two types of geraniums (‘Brocade Cherry Night’ and ‘Brocade Fire’) and the first-ever lavender-colored salvia, called ‘Lavender Jewel’. These plants are just now becoming available for retail sale for the first time. For gardeners interested in seeing the very latest, we are displaying all three 2016 flower winners in a small bed at the base of McKay Plaza. AAS also kindly sent Pink Flame Bounce Impatiens and Spreading Shell Pink Sunpatiens, both 2015 winners, which can be seen in the shady bed at the other end of the plaza. 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.