Westchester County offers residents reach of the bright lights and noisy excitement of New York City, with the opportunity to enjoy an easier way of life in communities that vary greatly in lifestyle and real estate. A commonality is the careful landscaping that contributes to the character of the community, whether the real estate is primarily historic mansions, two-story colonials, split levels, townhouses or garden apartments. Many residents want a touch of the “bright lights” in their landscape. Annual flowers can do that. They contribute a vibrancy with their colors and interest with their array of shapes and sizes. No matter if you have a postage stamp of a lawn or acres surrounding your home, annuals have a spark that catches your eye and complements the more traditional greenery.
Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)
The amaranthus caudatus has fascinated people from the time of the ancient Greeks, who named it the “unfading flower.” It has been celebrated by Aesop in a fable as a symbol of everlasting beauty, and in “Paradise Lost,” John Milton placed it in the Garden of Eden right beside the Tree of Life. Thus, love-lies-bleeding seems an appropriately passionate name for the tiny blood-red flowers that drip from their stems. The blossoms are thought to be the deepest red that nature produces. The plant will grow to a height of two or four feet, and the brilliant flowers cascading from it can grow to a length of 12 inches and bloom from July until the first frost.
Dwarf Morning Glory (Convolvulus tricolor)
Convolvulus tricolor boasts flared, trumpet-shaped flowers (2 inches across) perched on sturdy upright stems. The flowers blossom in succession from early spring to fall, in a truly dazzling display: each flower featuring striking royal blue petals with a yellow center ringed in bright white. The plant usually grows to 6 to 12 inches tall, and anywhere from 12 to 36 inches wide, making it perfect for groundcover, or as features in containers or edging plantbeds.
Spanish Flag (Ipomoea lobata)
If you want to really trick out your trellis, pergola or fence, this colorful vine instantly transforms any structure it wraps itself around. Commonly known as Spanish flag, it derives its name from its glorious clusters of flowers, each varying from yellow to red. Considered a perennial in the tropics, Spanish flag acts as an annual in Westchester County, blooming from summer to frost. The vine is strong and renowned for the speed at which its grows, reaching a height of 8 to 20 feet—even when in partial shade. As an added benefit, Spanish flag in known to attract hummingbirds and is deer resistant.
Ornamental Kale (Brassica oleracea)
In the autumn, when the Westchester County landscape is turning brown, Brassica oleracea takes up the slack, providing eye-catching color with its variegated leaves. The outer leaves are shades of blue-green, while the centers vary from bright red, pink, purple, green, yellow-green to creamy white. The plant grows from 18 to 24 inches in both diameter and height and bursts into color in cool or cold weather. And the colder it gets, the more intense the colors. It will grow until the temperature dips to about 20 degrees. Note that ornamental kale is edible, meaning it won't poison you, but it certainly doesn't taste good either, so is best grown for decorative purposes.