Preparing the canvas is the beginning of any painting. What you paint on determines, to a large degree, the quality of the outcome. I know a painter that used oil paints on slabs of wood when he couldn’t afford canvas. The slabs were sometimes planed and polished, and sometimes left raw. Two totally different effects for the end product, both beautiful in their own way.
I also prepare my canvas—the soil—for the picture I hope will ensue. My paints are my flowers, full of promise in their infancy.
To start, I weed around the perennials, and clear patches of smooth brown earth begin to emerge. I add a measure of compost here and there. A dash of organic soil amendments. Rake and smooth. Wait a week and re-weed. By this time the flowers are close to ready to plant.
I step back, and look at the canvas. Then I look at the plants in the greenhouse or on the bench waiting to be set out. I try to imagine what they will look like when they are big. Which ones will look good with which others. I’m trying to take into account all the variables and attributes. How tall will they get? When will they bloom? What colour will they be? Do they need full sun? I step back, and look at the canvas again. I put a few of the starts out near where I think they might go. Put them back in the greenhouse overnight. Wake up and look at it all again.
Why plant flowers at all? Well, that’s easy. Veggies are essential for body-nourishment. Flowers, for the soul. As well as bringing pollinators and providing homes for beneficial insects, and—bonus—some are edible and bring pure delight to my salads. And some, marigolds among others, deter some undesirable pests.
So saying, there is a good argument for growing more perennial flowers than annuals. It’s certainly a lot less work. Less weeding, less seeding, less transplanting, less planning. I think I am headed that way, especially as more and more perennials are established, have divided and conquered, and been moved into bare patches. I’ll miss my blank canvas and the planning of a new picture every year. But I will still have flowers galore, and will always plant SOME annuals-never fear.
For more information about uses for annuals in the permaculture garden, see this post: https://www.regenerative.com/magazine/eight-edible-flowers