After a weekend of leaf collecting, veg patch dismantling and (tardy) bulb planting, I thought I’d hark back to sunnier, summery times and give a review of some of the annuals I’ve grown from seed this year.
All the seeds mentioned here were from Sarah Raven, except The Aster chinensis Hulk, which I think was Thompson and Morgan.
As well as the ‘Sunset Buff’, I grew Calendula ‘Neon.’ I’ve never grown calendula before, but I have to say I love these two.
I’ve been lucky enough to grow them either in my raised cutting beds, or my borrowed neighbours’ garden, as I would struggle to fit these colours into my rather pink scheme.
With regard to their use for cutting (the main reason I was growing them), they have been good, but I’ve struggled to get very long stems and also struggled with mildew later in the season. They were only planted in March, so I’ve planted some seed this autumn, in the hope of having more established plants earlier on next year.
Another orange plant grown in my ‘borrowed’ garden has been provided by my Tithonia, Tithonia rotundiflora ‘Torch’. This has been incredibly prolific this year with the blooms making such a cheerful, bold statement. I do love this plant but wonder where I’ll be able to grow it next year as it does reach quite a height and spread and, as mentioned before, orange isn’t always the easiest colour to include in a planting scheme. I do have plans for a new orangey/bronzey themed bed, but the Tithonia would be too tall.
A genus I’ve grown lots of before is Cosmos, but this year as well as the lovely Comos ‘Purity’, so prolific and so, well ‘pure’ (clue’s in the name…)
I also grew Cosmos ‘Psyche White’. These are very similar to ‘Purity’, but have semi double flowers, which are like a fun mutation of ‘Purity’.
As well as the whites, I grew three pinks, Cosmos ‘Dazzler’, which is quite well known but was new to me and was good, but to my mind not as good as
Cosmos ‘Click Cranberries’. These very double flower heads were fabulous, and in such a stunning pink (it look wonderful contrasted with the Tithonia). However, one problem was that sometimes the flower heads were so heavy they didn’t stand up in the vase as well as the singles.
The last Cosmos was C. Rubenza. I do like the rather unusual colour which fades as the plant ages to a very dusky pink, but this one is shorter than the rest and therefore impossible to get really long flowers for cutting, if that’s what you’re after.
I grew a couple of sunflowers – Helianthus ‘Valentine’ which was an attractive soft yellow and had realtively small blooms making them good for cutting. Sadly, all my seedlings got eaten by slugs except one, so there weren’t many blooms to cut. (I heard Sarah Raven suggest that it was as prolific as Cosmos but can’t say I found that with mine).
The second was Helianthus Claret. I found these rather variable – you can see that the first picture shows the deep ‘wine-red’ colour I was expecting, whereas the next two don’t. Although they were quite fun, and pretty prolific for cutting, I found it hard to put them with other blooms and didn’t particularly like just a vase of sunflowers. I don’t think I’d grow them again.
Another plant I don’t think I’d grow again are Cleomes. I rather like their spidery heads but I found them quite hard to arrange as cut flowers and certainly didn’t appreciate (or expect) their vicious thorns. Ouch!
Something I would definitely grow more of are Zinnias. They had a wonderfully productive year this year as it was warm and sunny, just how they like it, and they grow with long straight stems and last well in the vase. I grew Zinnia ‘Genoa Mix’
and Zinnia ‘Envy’.
Another favourite is Salvia Viridis Blue. Although not that tall, I love the form with the wonderfully coloured flower bracts. This is still going strong in the garden in November, as are
the Nasturtium Black Velvet. These had a bad patch in high summer, but are flowering wonderfully now. The stems are very short for cutting, but make lovely posies and are, of course, good picked and sprinkled on salads as they are edible.
This Malope, Malope trifida Vulcan, I hadn’t grown for years, but it did really well for me this year. The petals have a beautiful silk like texture, which is gorgeous, but they can get easily bruised when cutting and arranging, so you do need to take extra care.
This Rudbeckia, Rudbekia ‘Cherry Brandy’ has also been great and was used in my ‘In a vase on Monday’ post on November 10th, as it was still going strong.
A couple more flowers I haven’t grown from seed since I had my allotment in London – Antirrhinum ‘White Giant
and A. ‘Liberty Crimson’
I loved arranging with both of these as they provided fabulous vertical accents.
To finish, my ‘greens’. The first one, an annual aster, was supposed to be Aster chinensis ‘Hulk’, but goodness knows what it is instead. I do rather like it though!
Secondly, Ammi visnaga white. I grew this instead of the more common Ammi majus, but I think it was a mistake. I found the flower heads were very dense and not so easy to mix with other plants. It did look lovely in simple arrangements, for example with the white Cosmos, however.
My Amaranthus caudatus ‘Viridis’, was an absolute revelation. Lots and lots of fresh green cutting material, with funky long (sometimes very long!) green tassels.
And to finish, one of my favourite blooms of any colour – Molucella laevis, or Bells of Ireland. I just love the form of this flower and for the first time ever got good germination rates and managed to grow some pretty tall blooms. OK, not the two foot ones you get in the florists, but then I probably wasn’t as assiduous with my staking as I should have been, and they were never going to grow that tall along the ground!
Of course the other things I grew plenty of from seed this year were sweet peas, but I think I’ve gone on long enough. You can read about my sweet peas here.
I would love to hear about your favourite annuals. Do you like mine? Know better? Tell me!