Garden Beds and Borders
Annuals are probably most widely used for filling gaps in borders, on the rock garden, and elsewhere, for they provide splashes of welcome color in a matter of months. A bed or border. devoted entirely to hardy annuals can make a splendid carpet of color during the summer months, but it does entail considerable work in weeding and watering in the early stages.
For a small garden or one of moderate size, a mixed border of hardy herbaceous perennials and annuals will provide interest and color from May to October without undue toil. With both types of plants, it is possible, by making a careful choice, to include only such plants as require no staking and it is wise, in exposed gardens, to use low-growing plants that will not be battered by summer winds. New Gardens One of the quickest ways of making a display in a new garden is by sowing hardy annuals, for the seed sown in April and May where it is to flower will give a display from June onwards.
The choice of annuals is very wide and the color range is all-embracing, giving ample scope for those with bright ideas and those who like to try something different each year.
For those whose gardening may be confined to window boxes, tubs, or other containers on a roof garden or in a patio, half-hardy annuals are probably the best bet. These can be planted as young plants in May and will soon start to flower. This is much more satisfactory, although it costs more than sowing seeds of hardy annuals in window boxes which are usually too exposed for young seedlings to make good plants, even though the seed may germinate reasonably well in the first place. Suitable half-hardy annuals for growing in containers are antirrhinum, petunia, fragrant stocks, annual chrysanthemum, (heliotrope), lobelia, Phlox drummondii, African and French marigolds, and other showy plants.
Hanging baskets are also most decorative when filled with heliotrope, trailing lobelia, free flowering nasturtium, petunia, and other summer flowering plants. Their flowers and foliage will hang over the sides most attractively.
Edging and Paving
Other uses of annuals are as dwarf edging plants for the front of a bed or border, or for sowing in crevices in paving. Among these is the low-growing Limnanthes douglasii with quite large white flowers with a yellow center, which seeds without becoming a nuisance, mesembryanthemum with daisy-like flowers that thrives in well-drained soil and full sun, Anagallis (pimpernel), and the creeping zinnia, Sanvitalia procumbens, with single yellow flowers with a black center on 6 in. stems. This curious little plant is like a miniature sunflower and never fails to attract interest.
Cut Flowers Annuals provide a splendid selection of flowers for cutting and with a little planning flowers can be available over a long period. By sowing hardy annuals in the open in the fall and making another sowing in the open in the spring a succession of welcome flowers will be assured. A list of annuals for cutting.
Hardy Annuals for Cut Flowers
Calendula (pot marigold), Centaurea (cornflower), Delphinium ajacis (larkspur), Gypsophila, Lathyrus odoratus (sweet pea), Nigella (love-in-a-mist), Saponaria, Scabiosa.
Biennials are also most useful and effective in a border, particularly when planted in bold clumps. In milder areas, wallflowers are probably among the most popular and there is a splendid range of colors. The fragrance on a warm day in May is glorious. For small gardens, the ‘Tom Thumb’ varieties, about 9 in. high, are the most valuable and decorative. These and other biennials are best planted in their flowering positions in the early fall, but if necessary this can be deferred until March. In colder areas, the plants should remain where they were sown through the winter and be given the protection of salt, hay, or evergreen branches. They are then moved to their flowering positions in spring.
Another method is to sow the seed in frost-proof frames in late summer and plant them outside in spring.
Groups of sweet Williams in well-drained soil and a sunny position are delightful in early summer, and they are also useful for cutting. Other popular biennials include Canterbury bell, the blue Cynoglossum with forget-me-not-like flowers borne on in curling sprays, polyanthus and in many rich colors in milder areas, honesty with its large flat seed pods which make decorative material when dried, Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule) in areas where summers are cooler and not too humid, and many different violas and pansies.
How to use Annual and Biennial flowers