You would not think that a busy corner gas station would be the ideal spot for a bed of annual flowers but I saw the perfect planting of pansies in such a location, on the corner of Reseda and Burbank Boulevards in Tarzana, just the other day.
I know the trend is moving away from annual flowers. At Armstrong Nursery in Sherman Oaks, for example, the space that used to be filled with annual flowers is now replete with succulents instead. You can still find plenty of annuals at that nursery, but their exposure to the shopper’s eye is not what it used to be.
This turn of events is explained, in part, by water rationing regulations in Los Angeles, which permit watering with conventional spray sprinklers no more than three days a week. (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for odd number addresses; Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays for even numbers). Yet, when the weather is warm, many kinds of annual flowers require irrigation more than three days a week.
Economics also explain the shift from annual flowers to succulents. In addition to saving water, since succulents require no more than one or two weekly soakings, there’s the simple matter of longevity. A single planting of succulents will persist for many years, whereas a bed of annual flowers will need refurbishing every few months, year after year after year.
And it could be argued that succulents are more interesting than annual flowers because they feature not only a rainbow spectrum of colors but a diversity of forms and textures as well.
But if you still want annual flowers, you can have them. Horticulture, after all, is nothing less than a defiance of nature.
Anyone who grows tomatoes in Los Angeles, for example, is defying and manipulating nature since tomatoes are indigenous to tropical Ecuador and Peru and grow wild there as perennials in damp soil with pea-sized fruit popping up on shoots that trail for ten feet along the ground.
When you plant tomatoes in arid Los Angeles, you are acknowledging the manipulation of this tiny fruit that began with its hybridization (or genetic tampering) by the Aztecs in pre-Columbian Mexico and continued in Europe when explorers returned there with seeds from the unique red fruit that they had just sampled for the first time.
Luckily, you can still grow vibrant annual flowers without violating municipal codes since it is permissible to irrigate as often as you like, even seven days a week, as long as drip irrigation is employed as your water delivery system. The water savings of a drip system are substantial compared to conventional spray sprinklers. While low-volume, water-saving spray nozzles deliver 0.5-2.0 gallons of water per minute, drip emitters deliver 0.5-2.0 gallons of water per hour. In other words, 60 drip emitters, over a given period of time, deliver the same amount of water as a single spray sprinkler.
Tip of the Week: “Azaleas are easy to grow in containers,” smiled Michael Kappel, a master gardener residing in Westwood. We were gazing at a brilliant ten year old ‘Nuccio’s Pink Bubbles’ azalea, situated in a large terra cotta pot, flush against a north facing wall. It’s watered three times a week during the summer, 8 minutes per watering, through a single piece of spaghetti tubing from a drip system. Azalea fertilizer is lightly applied two or three times a year.