Sunday, July 27, 2014

Thinking Annuals

I think all gardeners have a favorite annual; maybe several favorites.  Some of the reasons:

There are those that have the garden discipline to only use annuals that make perfect pots, borders and arrangements.

A beautiful frilly annual poppy.
For those with lots of room, having a “cutting garden” of annuals planted in rows like vegetables gives a summer’s worth of bouquets.

Combining certain annual flowers with vegetables may help repel insects.

Adding bright annuals to a perennial bed keeps it flowering all summer.

Then, there are those of us who plant flowers that bring back good memories.  I like the old fashioned annuals I saw in my grandma’s gardens.  Planted from seed, they are inexpensive and provide a riot of colors. 

Annuals from seed are easy and probably the reason kids are allowed to help plant them.  Some of my favorites to grow from seed:

Every zinnia I've ever had is my favorite.
Zinnia is a hardy plant with almost every color except blue.  Short, tall, big, little, solid or variegated colors and different petal shapes.  Include white and green for serene and elegant.  The riot of colors are reds, gold, orange and all shades in between.

A few Cosmos in a bud vase is especially sweet.

Cosmos look dainty and are tough as nails.  The soft fern-like leaves fill in around other plants and the beautiful flat flowers keep coming all season.  Shades of pink, white and gold are the most popular.

Bachelor Buttons fronting an old stump
full of petunias.
Bachelor Button is another deceptively tough plant and perfect for those needing blue in the gardens.  It also comes in shades of pink and white.  They may self seed. 

These bright Four-O'Clocks add 
zing to my veggie garden.
Four-o’clock is a thick bushy plant in bright pinks, oranges, yellow, red and white.   As their name indicates, they provide a visual statement in the evening and on cloudy days.

Marigolds are like a scoop of sunshine.

Marigolds are so tough some folks consider them too common and overlook the benefits of being drought tolerant.  It isn’t bashful about standing it’s ground against weeds and is virtually disease and insect resistant.  Many folks believe they help keep insects off garden vegetables; at any rate it brightens up a garden, bed, or pot.   There are many new hybrids in shades of gold, maroon, white and yellow.  Tall, short, small or large flowered.

Cleomes are a good insect magnet.

Cleome is a tall feathery plant that keeps on giving since the flowers keep blooming on the top.  White, pink and wine colors.  Gather the seeds before they drop if you don’t want zillions of plants next spring.  They do pull easily.  I generally let some drop and throw seeds over beds hoping for a mix in with perennials.

All of these may be seeded in rows, used in pots, put in selected areas or scattered to form a dense bed.  With some searching, you can find plant sets  at nurseries.  The above seeds can be mixed to form a combo of size and color perfect for a spectacular attraction or to hide something. 

One of about two-hundred zillion colors of Nasturtiums
The annuals above (and most others) need full sun, moisture when getting established and then they are happy with a typical Illinois summer.  Keeping weeds pulled insures they have all the moisture, sun and nutrients available.  

Once they’ve seeded or you’ve harvested the seeds, pull annuals and compost.  Annuals are better not left in the ground over winter because they can harbor diseases and insects plus most are no longer attractive.

To harvest the seeds, pick when the flower is dry and lay on newspaper for a few days just to make sure the seeds are dry.  Then put in a paper envelop, label and store in a dry spot where it won’t freeze. 

The old fashioned fragrant Nicotiana
Enjoy a riot of annuals throughout summer and bring a little old fashioned love back into your gardens.

(I know I didn't include some of our favorites, but I had to stop at some point.  I agree there are so many to choose from and I didn't even get into annual vines.)

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