Ruggiero and Christopher team up and begin by telling gardeners about the basics of “what is an annual?” from both a botanist and gardeners’ viewpoints. The authors have created a very complete reference book, that quickly covers the basics and then moves on to the how’s of annual design with lots of inspiring photos to show the full scope of how annuals can enhance a garden. The “Into the Garden” chapter shows annuals used in containers, window boxes, ornate carpet bedding, garden borders, and as a living flowering mulch. Handy lists share which trees are better to underplant with annuals and which ones to avoid. Vertical planting with annuals is encouraged using vines. An inspiring chapter on style in the annual garden offers great advice on designing with color, “Bright, hot colors hold up well in the blazing midday sun, when softer, pastels look washed out,” they say. They also include the importance of scale and foliage - even how to break the rules of garden design.
Many practical growing tips are included to help gardeners grow annuals from seed or cuttings, planting procedures, fertilizing, laying out the garden, and a four-step formula to estimate how many plants are needed for any garden space.
Specifics about “The Essential Annuals” fill the last 70 pages of the book. Here Ruggiero and Christopher really show their experience. Each plant has an extensive write-up with an overview that often includes interesting information about the plant from other parts of the world or candid comments – “This plant is a real workhorse…” for wax begonia. Or “If garden zinnias were only harder to grow, they would be much more fashionable.”