Cool Season Color
Thomas J. Story

Fall and Spring Annuals

As summer flowers die down, cool-season annuals kick into gear, filling gaps in your plantings. Flowers like these snapdragons, ranunculus, and pansies are some of the easiest annuals to grow. They do well in beds and containers, and are almost pest-free.

In cold areas, plant them now for a burst of blooms before the frost. In mild-winter climates, they'll grow and bloom through fall and winter, then hit a crescendo in spring.

Cool Season Color
Norman A. Plate


Primroses come in shades of amethyst, gold, garnet, sapphire, and pink tourmaline; some are even edged with silver. Yet for all their beauty, not even frost and rain can hurt them.

In mild-winter areas, primroses are on the market from October through early spring. In snowy areas, plants appear in late February or March.

Give bedding plants an application of complete, controlled-release fertilizer every three months or so. For container plants, apply a half-strength liquid fertilizer twice a month.

Cool Season Color
Thomas J. Story

Annual Plantings

Garden designer Carole Kraft specializes in perennials, but annuals are her mainstay in winter.

This pocket garden she designed is almost always full of soft purples and lemon yellows. Among the plants: pincushion flowers, pansies, daffodil foliage, catmint, and candytuft.

For more impact, buy plants with flowers in single colors (mixed-color flowers can give your garden a spotty look). Combine them with plants in similar or contrasting colors.

Cool Season Color
Thomas J. Story

Sweet Peas

Plant sweet peas in fall or early spring, and your nose won't be disappointed.

In mild-winter climates, sow sweet peas directly in the ground, 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart, between September and November. In cold-winter areas, plant in February or March in 2-inch plastic pots, then transplant seedlings into the ground in March or April.

Look for varieties designated "early-flowering" such as 'Winter Elegance Mix'. To speed germination, soak seeds overnight before planting.

Cool Season Color
Thomas J. Story

All White

An all-white planting looks like a dusting of snow, all frosty and cool, and the white blossoms add light to lengthening evenings.

In this garden, designed for a long season of bloom, white chrysanthemums and primroses are framed by lacy bacopa. Cyclamens bloom from fall through spring, and in late winter, white narcissus pop up. By early spring the garden is in its full glory.

Cool Season Color
E. Spencer Toy

Tough New Pansies

New varieties of pansies have bushier, less floppy habits and more vigorous root systems. And they're generally hardy to the low 20s or even 0° (when mulched or covered with snow).

In mild climates, set out plants in fall for winter-to-spring bloom. In cold-winter areas, wait until spring (or plant next August for overwintering).

Choose a site that gets sun or bright, filtered light. (In hot zones, plant in partial shade.) Plant in well-drained soil with plenty of compost. Remove spent flowers to keep blooms coming.

Cool Season Color
Thomas J. Story

Color Garden

Florists' Cineraria adds intense color to dark corners of the garden, blooming in late winter and early spring in mild-winter areas, in spring and early summer elsewhere.

For year-round appeal, pair it with interesting foliage. Here it grows with asparagus fern in a 15-inch-wide glazed terra-cotta pot.

Cool Season Color
Marion Brenner


Fiery poppies get this show started in fall, then bold tulips add to the drama in spring. The bright orange flowers contrast beautifully with foliage in deep purple, dark green, and lime green.

This combination: orange Iceland poppy, 'Yellow Emperor' tulip, red lily-flowered tulip, orange Nemesia strumosa, red and yellow-edged 'Corsage' tulip, and chrysanthemum foliage.

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