Annual Flower Garden

Our Garden Gang's

Annual Flower Garden

The most beautiful gardens are usually planned in advance.  January and February is an excellent time to work out a plan for your garden.  Here are some ideas about annuals to help you make good selections for your garden.

califpoppiesbachbuttns.jpg (228x157 -- 13521 bytes)Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season.  In a just-planted garden, they will supply instant color and fill in between your more permanent plants until they reach maturity.  (California poppies and Bachelor's Buttons shown).

You can also change the appearance of your garden each year by changing the color scheme of your annuals. You can set a distinct mood.  For instance, use flowers of gold, yellow, orange and red for a bright, bold garden.  If your preference if a relaxed scene, plant blues, whites, light pink and lavenders.  Other combinations are blue and yellow; red and gold; red, white and blue; or pink and blue.

You can plant annuals in great drifts of one color or, if the planting is large, use several colors.  Enhance the perennial border by placing annuals in clusters of one color and variety between perennials.  Annuals are perfect for pots and containers, as most are easily moved from one place to another where you need color.

Be sure to plant the annual in a situation where it will thrive.  If the area has less than a half-day of sun, use shade plants.  Sun-loving plants should be used in an area with more than a half day of sunshine ( 6 hours). There are suitable plants for moist or dry locations and you will save money if you plant annuals requiring the same amount of moisture together.

tuberous_begonia.jpg (180x143 -- 8448 bytes) Check the height of the plant.  In the flower border, tall plants are generally placed at the back of the border, with medium plants in the center and small or dwarf types at the front.  When planting a bed that will be viewed from all sides, use tall plants in the center, surrounded with medium plants and edged with small or dwarf-type plants.  (Small-flowered begonias shown.)

If you have the time and suitable light, it is most economical to start your annuals from seed about this time of the year.  Or you can purchase them in plant form from your nursery or garden center at the proper time for planting, which is about mid-May in the Salt Lake area and a week later at higher altitudes.  When purchasing annuals select those that are compact with healthy green foliage.

Some popular annuals:

Zinnias are bold, colorful flowers that are easy to grow.  They will do well planted as seed right in the garden when in the soil warms up in the spring.  Originally from Mexico, these flowers come in a variety of colors, heights, plant forms and flower types and are excellent in flower designs.  They range in size from about 6 inches tall to well over two feet.  When first discovered, the zinnias was yellow and considered a weed. The first zinnias were used for medicinal purposes.  Through the years, hybridizers have transformed what was once a weed into beautiful, colorful, bold flowers.  These can be sown in spring or started indoors 6-8 weeks before planting out.

nasturtium.jpg (100x85 -- 2566 bytes)Nasturtiums (shown) are tough and prefer poor soils in order to bloom well.  They come in shades ranging from yellow to orange, and the new Cherry Belle which is a deep cherry red.  The more sun you can give this, the better is does.  Nasturtiums are also edible flowers, great in salads and as garnishes.

Petunias are among the most popular annuals in Utah gardens.  A native of South America, they grow about 12-to-18 inches.  Colors include purple, sky blue, blue, scarlet, rose, yellow, white, light blue, burgundy, salmon and bi-colors.  While you can grow petunias from seed indoors, it takes at least 10 weeks before the plants are ready to place in the garden.  It is probably best to purchase plants from a garden center.

Snapdragons are grown as an annual in our area.  They will do well in sun or semi-shade, and range from 6-to-8 inches to three feet tall.  A native of the Mediterranean, they have spikes of many colors: yellow, orange, white, rose, pink and crimson.  They flower from June to late fall, and should be started indoors or purchased as transplants.

pinkimpatiens.jpg (180x116 -- 6389 bytes)Impatiens (shown) are shade lovers that come in lots of pastel shades and some jewel-bright ones.  These are a standby for shady parts of the garden, as are the large and small flowered begonias.  Impatiens come in both single and double form.  While the original impatiens had flowers of a brick red color, they now are available in many hues: white, salmon, scarlet, pink, orange, rose and bi-colors.  Plants size varies from dwarf types of 6-to-8 inches to tall varieties of 12-to-16 inches. The impatiens is a native of East Africa.  These can be difficult to start indoors.  They need a good 3 months before planting out time.  It is probably better, unless you need a large number of plants, to purchase young plants from the garden center in spring.

Annual phlox will adapt well to container culture in a sunny location.  It looks good when planted in raised beds and will do well in most any soil.  Colors are crimson, pink, white, blue and crimson.

Kochia is is also known as the burning bush.  It is an annual shrub with dense, attractive foliage. that will turn a brilliant red in fall.  It is useful as a foundation or background planting for a new garden.  It can also be used as a hedge as it reaches a height of around four feet and will self-sow.

Cleome (spider-flower) is another easy to grow from seed annual.  It reaches up to 4-5 feet in height and should be put at the back of the border.  It comes in pink, white and purple shades and is outstanding for filling in large empty spaces with interest. Cosmos3.gif (110x105 -- 10512 bytes)

Cosmos (shown) are another standby.  They range in height from 2 to 5 feet and come in shades of white, pink and purple.  The tall ones are lovely at the back of the garden where they wave behind your other annuals.  The lower ones are good for mid-border plantings.  The lacy leaves are also a nice garden accent.  Late to bloom - usually in August - Cosmos can be sown in the garden as soon as the ground can be worked, and often self seed.

Wildflower- type and fragrant annuals:

Most of these must be started indoors 2-3 months before planting out time, unless stated otherwise.  Also, most annuals require full sun unless stated otherwise.  See Seedlings and Indoor Gardening for details on starting plants indoors (use your browser back button to return to this page).

Nicotiana is an often-fragrant flower that comes in many forms - from low front-of-the-border plants, to bushy mid-border plants to the six foot high rather gangly but very fragrant white version.  They are available in pastel pinks, blues, purples and whites as well as deep red and purple shades. The purple and white ones tend to be the most fragrant.  These are wonderful for planting near your entrances and windows!  It can be started 2-3 months before setting out time indoors under lights.  They often self-sow and the plants from the self-sown seed start slowly, but take off quite quickly. Nikkis can take some shade unlike most other annuals.  Nikkis also self-seed prolifically.  Seed collected from your Nikkis come true to color more than 75 percent of the time.

texblubon.jpg (110x162 -- 3535 bytes)Texas Bluebonnets (shown) are a lupine relative.  They are low growing blue flowered with a white eye.  These range from 8 inches in height up to 2 feet.  They often self-sow, and prefer cooler temperatures yet full sun, dying back in summer unless they have some shade from taller plants.  Start them outside in the area you want them to grow in early spring.  If starting indoors under lights, the hard seed coat will have to be nicked.

Heliotrope is another fragrant annual.  It grows to a maximum of 20" high and has deep blue-purple blossoms in clusters, that smell divine in the morning sun and attract bees and butterflies.  It must be started indoors a good 3 months before planting out.

nigella_seed_pod.jpg (150x86 -- 3423 bytes)Love-in-a-mist - nigella (seed-pod shown) can be easily started from seed sown directly into the garden.  It is a maximum of 12 inches high.  It's pastel pink, white, purple and blue toned flowers grow easily from seed sowed  in late spring where you want them to bloom.  Nigella also has attractive seedpods that stay on into the winter.

Marigolds are not just for flowers, but also help stave off nematodes from the vegetable garden.  Plant these around tomatoes and peppers and other nightshades to help your crops along.  They are not pleasantly fragrant, but do come in varying shades from white through yellow to multicolor orange/brown/yellow combinations.  They range in size from less than 12 inches to morethan 2 feet high.  These too can be started indoors 2 months before transplanting-out time and kept pinched back to ensure full, bushy plants. Most Marigolds come true from seed collected when the flowers mature.

Nemesia (Baby Blue Eyes) likes some shade.  This delightful 6-8 inch plant has lovely blue flowers with a white eye.  These also do well when sown directly into the garden about 2 weeks before your expected last frost date. Plant these under your shrubs and taller plants which can provide dappled shade to these beauties that fade in the heat of summer.

sunflowers.jpg (160x106 -- 8311 bytes)Sunflowers (shown) come in a wide variety of heights and shades, from the popular large 8 foot tall yellow ones (good for the back of a border, or even as a living fence) to the lower and bushier Italian sunflowers that come in shades of white and deep red.

Alyssum comes in shades of white, pink, and purple.  The white one is particularly fragrant, and all are low growing, ranging from 4 to 8 inches in height (will grow taller and a bit lanky in part shade, which they will tolerate).  These grow prolifically from seed sown as soon as the ground can be worked in spring, and self-seed beautifully.

California and Iceland poppies, available in shades of gold, yellow, white and sometimes pink, are also good self-seeders.  These can be seeded as soon as the ground is workable in spring.bachelors_buttons.jpg (110x127 -- 4589 bytes)

Bachelors' Buttons (shown) and other Clarkia relatives also self-seed prolifically and can be sown as soon as the ground is workable in spring.  These can range from under 2 feet high to more than 4 feet high.  Blossom color is usually blue, but pinks and whites are also available.

Coleus, while not known for its flowers (usually tiny purple ones), is a great shade plant that comes in a variety of bright variegated leaf colors.  These are available as seed and must be started at least 2 months before planting out time, or purchased as transplants (that way you KNOW what color it will be).

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