Do you grow annuals?
Over the years, I have fallen in and out of love with them.
When we are new to gardening, they are our everything. I became a gardener growing marigolds around my tomatoes in an urban community garden and zinnias in front of my shrubbery in a Florida suburban home.
I first became infatuated with growing flowers here at Maplehurst in Pennsylvania by digging up a jelly-bean patch of sod and planting seeds for morning glory vine, moonflower vine, zinnias, cosmos, and, yes, more marigolds.
The annual flower gomphrena was my first attempt at keeping the garden looking fresh into fall. My father told me to plant them, and he was not wrong. The dark purple globes were gorgeous in late summer when everything else had wilted in the heat and humidity.
But I fell out of love with annuals as I gained garden experience.
As I learned more about perennials, and grew familiar with the ones that would do well in my garden and return year after year, annual flowers began to seem like a lot of work for only one season’s worth of color.
Annual flowers often needed more care (like deadheading and feeding). And then they needed to be cleaned up after the first hard freeze, Some, like gomphrena, looked almost better after a freeze, but many, like nasturtium, seemed to dissolve into a puddle of slime. Gross!
Now, more than a decade into my gardening life, I find myself returning to a more balanced appreciation for annual flowers.
As much as I love potting up perennials like roses, there really is nothing like an annual flower (or group of them) to keep a container looking bright and beautiful all season long.
And those purple gomphrena? I still love their late-season color and their ability to withstand the heat and humidity of August.
Here are the annual flowers that are still “must-haves” for me:
- Zinnias, especially ‘Benarys Giant’ and ‘Queen Lime’
- Cosmos, especially ‘Purity’
- Nasturtium, especially ‘Salmon Gleam’
My appreciation for annual flowers is now informed by the fact that I know so much more about them.
When I began, I lumped them all into the same category and planted them all at the same time following the words of advice on so many seed packets: plant out after all danger of frost has passed.
Now I better understand the difference between
“… live for one year and survive cold temperatures. Many are planted in fall to winter-over and produce blooms the following spring and summer. These flowers prefer growing in cool conditions.”
and Tender Annuals
“… live for one year and do not survive cold temperatures. These flowers are planted after the threat of frost has passed in spring and the soil has begun to warm. Tender annuals prefer growing in the heat of summer.” – Lisa Mason Ziegler, Cool Flowers
This fall, I’ll be sowing seeds for the hardy annual snapdragons. I love ‘Chantilly’ for cut flowers and ‘Twinny’ for containers. And next spring, I’ll be planting out my cosmos and zinnias as I always do.