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How to Plant a Winter Annual Flower Bed

We’re excited to partner with an expert garden designer to teach you about installing a winter flower bed that keeps on giving all the way to Spring and beyond!

Tiz Johnston, a landscape designer in Charlotte, North Carolina has agreed to share her tips and tricks. Her advice is useful for those of us in Western North Carolina (hardiness zones 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a) and beyond!

Establishing A Seasonal Annual Flower Bed

Do you have a garden bed for routinely rotating seasonal annuals? Having a designated space for rotating annuals guarantees continual color and helps scratch that gardening itch throughout the year!

Preparing for a New Planting

Out with the old! Weed and remove other annuals before adding winter annuals. Starting with a blank space allows you to visualize the space and properly prepare the soil.

Gently break up the soil to ensure plants get the oxygen they need. Use caution here! Be as minimally invasive as possible to prevent killing soil life.

One way is to use a garden claw/soil ripper to carefully twist the soil loose. Make sure not to invert the soil layers. Beds can also be gently aerated with a broadfork or garden fork. These tools and techniques allow you to inject oxygen into the bed and break up compaction while disturbing soil life as little as possible.

Now is the perfect time to add Greenhill Worm Farm worm castings. When amending garden soil we recommend applying 1-2” across the entire garden bed and raking the worm castings into the soil.

Choosing The Right Plants

When deciding on plants for a winter annual bed, consider the other plants in your landscape, choosing plants that complement existing perennials. That being said, choose colors so your winter design will POP!

I like to use a dramatic and energizing plant palette for winter designs. You can create this plant palette with plants like “bright lights” swiss chard, “ocean” matrix pansies, dianthus, and early blooming tulips like Golden Parade.

Time to Plant

I chose “Bright Lights” Swiss Chard, “Ocean” Matrix Pansy, Dianthus, and Golden Parade Tulips for my Winter Annual Bed this year.

For a 5x5 (25 square foot) bed

  • 3 “Bright Lights” Swiss Chard 1 gallon container

  • 3-4 (1501) flats (15 pots per flat) of “Ocean” Matrix Pansy planted 6-8” on center

  • 1 (1501) flat (15 pots per flat) of dianthus planted 6-8” on center

  • 50 bulbs of Golden Parade Tulips

  • 4-5 lbs of worm castings

  • .25 cubic yards of mulch

Once you get back from your local nursery with your goodies the fun begins! I like to use growers that grow in larger pots. I think they establish better because they have a more developed root system. Find your bulb planter or spade and get to digging.

Mulch around your plants, water in and enjoy!

Tiz Johnston is the owner of Garden Design By Tiz. Tiz has an Associates of Art from Brevard College and a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture with a concentration in Landscape Design from North Carolina State University. She creates creative residential and commercial landscape designs in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. You can contact Tiz by emailing or calling her at (704) 718-4785.

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