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Hardy annuals


by Adam Pasco

Some people get a bit snobby when it comes to flowers. Perennials usually come high in the pecking order for the 'must have' plants of the moment, but when did you last hear anyone singing the praises of hardy annuals?


Godetia flowersSome people get a bit snobby when it comes to flowers. Perennials usually come high in the pecking order for the 'must have' plants of the moment, but when did you last hear anyone singing the praises of hardy annuals?

Annuals are the unsung heroes among garden flowers, and really deserve to be more widely grown and respected, especially at a time when people are looking for ways to spend less on their gardens. They're simple things, I know, but I think that's their appeal. Just look at the photograph of godetia (above) that I took last summer. Isn't it glorious? Grown closely packed together, godetia forms a carpet of colour worthy of a place in any garden.

No, godetia isn't a perennial that comes back year after year, but a simple hardy annual. In terms of value, a single perennial could cost you, say, £5.00 to buy, but you could pick up a packet of Godetia Dwarf Mixed flower seed for just £1.39, and grow 1,000 plants! Yes, 1,000 seeds in a packet, and other hardy annuals offer similar great value.

Perhaps being so cheap has worked against annuals over the years. Perhaps plants aren't worth growing unless they're rare, exclusive, and expensive. Well creating a great looking garden doesn't have to cost you a fortune. Many of us are gardening on a tight budget, and you can fill borders to overflowing with a selection of hardy annuals like sunflowers, calendula, poppy, love-in-a-mist, larkspur, poached egg flowers, lavatera, alyssum, cornflower, night scented stock, and climbers like nasturtium and scented sweet pea. The list goes on.

Hardy annual seed can be sown directly into your garden borders where they will flower - no messing round with pots, seed trays or pricking out. Just sow where you want colour, and leave them to it (well, a little bit of weeding won't go amiss).

Many hardy annuals also generously set seed. Either collect seed or let it fall onto the soil around and you'll have more flowers next year for free.

So, what's your favourite annual?



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Gardeners' World Web User 06/04/2009 at 20:57

Me I love them all,but who could resist sun flowers poppies stock and busy Lizzies,most of all though Pansies are my all time favourite all their sunny little faces even in the middle of winter with a wonderful array of colours.

Gardeners' World Web User 06/04/2009 at 21:31

Zinnias, they are just totally dramatic and fantastic value. Really long lasting, great as cut flower. Easy to germinate and come in some amazing varieties. The sexiest of which is Red Spider or even fireworks mixed. I sowed mine a week ago and they are already standing proud in their tray waiting to be potted on.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/04/2009 at 09:49

As I post this comment my computer is next to a deep windowsill (no greenhouse unfortunately) crammed with hardy annuals in little cell trays growing by the hour! Can't wait to see them all in the wonderful summer glory later in the season. For the sheer joy of watching something grow from a tiny seed to a beautiful flowering plant hardy annuals are hard to beat.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/04/2009 at 17:34

Hi I'm new to gardening and have just bought all my annual seeds. I've noticed on the seven day forecast above that there could be a ground frost on Sunday. Can I plant my seeds before this or will the frost kill them? I noticed the soil temperature doesn't go down to zero, so does this mean they will be alright. Any idea anyone? Thanks!!

Gardeners' World Web User 07/04/2009 at 19:19

Claire hardy annuals are just that- hardy. I have found self-sown nasturtiums,poppies and marigolds in my garden from last year so yes you can plant them.

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