Sucked in by an 88 Cent 'Annual'

My decision to take up gardening was not a planned one, although it was inspired by constantly being in the company of our seniors involved with this website. After many months photographing their beautiful gardens, watching them share cuttings and stories, and compiling videos of orchid club exhibits, it seemed natural to take advantage of the year round island weather around me.

My last hobby a few decades ago involved saltwater aquariums, and I enjoyed the serenity of a tank, creativity in sandscaping, and vividness of the colorful marinelife. However, it was a timeconsuming and expensive passion—those beautiful fishes are not cheap.

Gardening to me always seemed like hard work, and I viewed greenery as inanimate objects with little personality. One day, as Linda and I walked by the local Lowes garden center, a large rack of colorful potted flowers jumped out at me, with the ’88 cent annuals’ signage. Hmm, I thought—you can’t even get a guppy for 88 cents, what could I lose? All I need to do is throw a little water on it now and then, and it’ll add color and cheer to my bare second story patio (aka lanai in Hawaii).

Well, within a week, the beautiful flowers shriveled up, and all I had left were sickly leaves despite daily water spritzing. Here’s the beautiful ‘before’ and dismal ‘after’ photo. After some research, I now know that ‘annuals’ are plants that live for only one season. They quickly grow from seed, to plant, to flower, and then they die (though technically they can leave new seeds to start the next generation). I console myself that my plant reached the height of its beauty and growth which meant it was all downhill from there, through no fault of mine, and maybe that’s why annuals cost 88 cents.

I also learned that ‘perennials’ are the plants that I always envisioned, living for many seasons, hence the consistent foliage and flowers reappearing throughout the cycles. ‘Biennials’ take a year for the plant to get off the ground, and then it regresses, but during the second year it picks up where it left off and truly flourishes.

So in the spirit of instant gratification, here’s my little flock of ‘annuals’ for a total cost of less than $5. I’ve learned to pick plants that still have some unopened buds, so that we can have longer quality time together.