20 ways to have fun with annual flowers.
Celebrate with pots of instant colour. Compact annuals grown as ‘potted colour’ are ideal for planting in containers. Whether you go for one big pot with a colourful mix or the simple approach with one favourite flower repeated through the garden, it’s the quickest way to give your garden a fresh new look. Buying advanced, individually potted annuals not only gives instant colour, but more rapid growth because the transplanting shock is less than for smaller seedlings grown together in punnets. Take your pick of beautiful flowers in garden centres now.
Welcome visitors with warm coloured flowers at your front door. Try red, orange or yellow polyanthus, Californian poppies, wallflowers, begonias, snapdragons or violas.
Plant hanging baskets that will sparkle through the seasons. Use good quality liners (such as sphagnum moss or coconut fibre), moisture retentive potting mix and be generous with your planting for a full look. Overcrowded plants can be removed later. Great for hanging baskets are petunias, lobelia, alyssum, pansies, violas, viscaria, and impatiens.
Make a centrepiece for the outdoor table that will last for months. Choose a low pot or bowl and cram it full of low growing annuals such as viola or polyanthus. Add alyssum for fragrance or lobelia for a touch of blue. Busy Lizzies (Impatiens) are a good choice for tables in shade in summer, and try polyanthus in winter.
Fill the gaps between newly planted shrubs with a splash of temporary colour. Annuals provide huge potential for a colour coordinated approach.
Sprinkle seeds of easy ‘wild-flower’ style annuals such as cosmos, Shirley poppies, Californian poppies, and cornflowers. It’s a cheap and easy way to give your garden a facelift. Full sun and a fine-textured well-drained soil give best results. Improve heavy soils with compost or sow seed onto a layer of seed raising mix.
Recycle old items into a floral statement by filling them with potting mix and colourful annuals. Potential plant containers include discarded kitchenware, wheelbarrows, and old gift baskets. Be sure to make sure the container has drainage holes before you plant.
Brighten the vege patch with companion flowers (such as calendula, borage, echium, cosmos, sunflowers and marigolds) which attract beneficial insects and repel pests.
|Create a white garden for romantic summer evenings with the likes of white cosmos, foxgloves, hollyhocks, nasturtium, petunia, alyssum, cleome, honesty (Lunaria), larkspur, and love-in-a-mist (Nigella). Include plenty of green foliage for balance.
|Create the illusion of space and depth by planting blue flowers as fillers and background colour. Blue and blue-purple annuals include viscaria, lobelia, cornflower, forget-me-not, pansies, viola, cineraria, larkspur, love-in-a-mist and salvia.
Weave a tapestry of colourful low growing bedding plants. Choose the most compact varieties of begonias, viola, pansy, alyssum, French marigold or lobelia and plant in patterns or make a picture or words. Great fun for kids!
Play lords and ladies and plant yourself a mini parterre. The traditional version has a framework of English box hedge - optional not essential! Ideal parterre annuals are compact begonias, French marigolds, and bedding salvia in red, blue and white.
Grow edible flowers for decorating cakes and salads; borage, calendula, marigold, sunflower, Johnny-jump-up (Viola tricolor), nasturtium (beware – this beauty has a tendency for self seeding!) Caution: Tell kids not all flowers are edible and avoid eating any flower unless you are absolutely sure.
Plant a picking garden with cottage favourites such as cosmos, love-in-a-mist (Nigella), cornflowers, larkspur, sweet peas, sunflowers and Queen Anne’s lace. Look for tall varieties of calendulas, phlox, snapdragons and zinnias.
Grow flowers for drying such as everlasting daisy (Helichrysum bracteatum), statice, love-in-a-mist and bells of Ireland. Harvest when the blooms are just opening and air-dry upside down in a warm, dry place away from strong sun. These flowers also make colorful potpourri.
The tallest sunflower competition is a fun activity to whet the kids’ appetite for summer gardening. Sow September in peat pots, or directly into the garden when the soil warms up in October or November.
|Plant for fragrance; stock and sweet peas. Sweet peas are best sown directly into well-fed, well drained soil in early spring (or autumn in warm climates). Stock is a cool season flower grown in winter and spring. Look for ready flowering plants in your garden centre. Now is also a good time to plant the delicious vanilla scented heliotrope (cherry pie), a perennial in the north, but enjoyed as a long flowering summer annual in frosty climates.
Red flowers for Christmas. Start flowers from seed for special Christmas pots that will add an extra festive touch – great in pots as gifts. Sow in trays for later transplanting: red petunias, impatiens, sweet william, salvia and begonia.
Sow a meadow. Despite appearances, a successful meadow garden takes some preparation. In warm climates perennial grasses can be too vigorous for most wild flowers so it’s important to start with a weed free soil. Seed is sown in early spring and the meadow is mown in autumn, after flowers have set seed for next years flowering. Look for special wild flower mixes or make your own blend of easy seeders such as cosmos, Shirley poppies, Californian poppies, love-in-a-mist and cornflowers.
Step on a crack and marry a rat. Alternatively, pretty up an old pathway by scattering a packet of seeds. Californian poppies and alyssum are famous for their ability to grow in cracks and crevices. If there is rain coming you may not even have to water!
Potted colour annuals in the garden centre
Welcome visitors with a colourful lavish display of annual flowers.
Hanging basket of petunias and lobelia
Impatiens make a great display in pots.
Bright marigolds and zinnias look perfect in a red wheelbarrow.
Calendula petals are edible.
Love-in-the-mist (Nigella) is great for picking, meadows and blue gardens.
A tapestry of French marigolds, African marigolds and lobelia
Cosmos for picking
Grow tall sunflowers
Grow sweet peas for their fragrance, picking and height.
Bright red verbena for Christmas