Annual Report

I am a recent convert to annuals. My (laughably naive) idea was to plant a bunch of perennials and sit back and watch the garden put on a grand show. Things did not turn out quite that way, of course. For one, perennials take a while to come into their own; to regurgitate the oft-quoted piece of gardening wisdom, “First year they sleep, second year they creep and the third year they leap”. Since none of my perennials are over a year old, they are all really “sleeping” right now.

I planted three purple Coneflowers, Echinacea hybrid ‘Hot Papaya’ this spring (wow-worthy flowers; story for another day). They filled out nicely and bloomed profusely. There is a niggling worry that these will be fighting for space next year. On the other hand, the slower growers have patches of barren earth around them, while they grow to reach their full potential. While I am waiting around, why not give annuals a try?

Advantages of annuals:

1. They are quick to grow, since they need to wrap up their life cycles in a single growing season.

2. They (usually) produce enormous amounts of flowers, bursting with color, to attract pollinators before it’s too late.

3. Most of them will happily self-sow if left to go to seed, ensuring future generations. You could also collect the seeds to have more control over where and when you want new plants.

4. They are forgiving of mistakes. If you are a newbie, like I am, and trying to get your color palette just right, annuals give you the option of trying out various color combinations year after year – they are only a one season commitment.

5. They are exciting! With so many varieties to choose from, even within a species, you can try out different varieties for a completely new look every year.

6. They are inexpensive. If you grow annuals from seed, like I do, they are about 6c a plant! Not all seeds in a packet will germinate, and most would need to be thinned out, so it works out to be a bit more than 6c per plant, but still very cheap.

7. They are invaluable for hiding yellowing bulb foliage or bare spots among slower growing perennials.

My shipment of flower seeds from here came yesterday. I ordered from them last year as well for this year’s planting, with mixed results. These are the ones I tried:

1. California poppy ‘Bridal Bouquet’ – mixed packet of double-flowered poppies in pastel shades of pink, cream and peach. They created a lovely show, grown en masse, and spread a lot of their seeds around; I see several vigorous seedlings already.

California poppy 'Bridal Bouquet' Source: Select Seeds
California poppy ‘Bridal Bouquet’
Source: Select Seeds

2. California poppy ‘Thai Silk Fire’ – this one was a flop. Germination was poor, and the flowers when they bloomed were small. Over time some of them reverted to the usual orange coloration of the species.

3. Sweet pea ‘Mollie Rilstone’ – these were sowed late winter, so they would bloom in spring. I hadn’t set up trellises for these so they ended up flopping all over the place. User error in this case.

4. Hollyhock ‘Happy Lights’ – these did great. Grew to 8 feet tall with huge flower spikes and months of blooms. I collected a lot seeds for next year.

5. Night phlox ‘Midnight candy’ – these were a disappointment. The seeds took a while to sprout and when they did, the flowers, which I grew for scent rather than for looks, were sadly lacking in any detectable fragrance.

6. Cosmos ‘Cosimo Dancing Dolls’ – never got around to sowing these.

7. Cornflower ‘Classic Fantastic’ – never got around to sowing these either, but saw some in a neighbor’s yard in a standalone bed, and they looked fantastic!

This year’s hopefuls include Agrostemma githago ‘Milas’, California poppy ‘Alba’, Cornflower ‘Classic Fantastic’ (again), Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Cosimo Sparkling Wine’, Nemophila maculata ‘Baby Five Spot’, Hollyhock ‘Peaches ‘n Dreams’, Papaver somniferum ‘Heirloom’, and Nicotiana alata ‘Crimson Bedder’. As you can see, I haven’t strayed very far from last year’s choices. And, oh yeah, Select Seeds threw in a free packet of Nierembergia scoparia ‘Purple Robe’ as well, which would go nicely with my white-blue-purple-pink color scheme.

Agrostemma githago 'Milas' Source: Annie's Annuals
Agrostemma githago ‘Milas’
Source: Annie’s Annuals
Nemophila maculata 'Baby Five Spot' Source: Annie's Annuals
Nemophila maculata ‘Baby Five Spot’
Source: Annie’s Annuals
California poppy 'Alba' Source: Annie's Annuals
California poppy ‘Alba’
Source: Annie’s Annuals

Have I swayed you into trying annuals yet? What annuals will you be planting next year?

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