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Half-hardy annuals are the perfect choice for gardeners in a hurry. Fast growing and colourful, many half-hardy annual species have the stature to perform centre stage in summer planting schemes.Despite their exotic looks, half-hardy annuals are surprisingly easy to grow, though you do need to raise them from seed, indoors. Growing half-hardy annuals from seed will give you a much wider choice of varieties than you’ll have if you buy ready-grown plants, and some species will flower in as little as 12 weeks.Prick out seedlings into pots or multi-cell trays and grow them on into sturdy plants, ready to drop into border gaps. Dot single plants as accents through your borders, or plant generous drifts between perennials, providing a contrast of foliage and colour.
With soft, ferny foliage and delicate blooms, cosmos mingles well in any border. Regular cutting keeps blooms coming. Height 40-90cm. Flowers in 14 weeks.
There are many colours of Nicotiana to choose from, including white, lime green and purple. Wonderful scented foliage and flowers. Height: 90-150cm. Flowers in 16 weeks.
Often relegated to greenhouses or border edges, large-flowered african varieties of Tagetes also make a striking centre piece. Height: 60-90cm. Flowers in 16 weeks. ('Tall Scotch Prize' is pictured here.)
With deep-red maple-like leaves and spiky fruits, the exotic castor oil plant, Ricinus communis, really earns its space in any border. Height: 1-2.5m Flowers in 16 weeks.
Spider flowers, Cleome, have impossibly intricate blooms in white or pink. Combine with large dahlias in pastel shades. Height: 90-120cm. Flowers in 14 weeks.
Zinnias are available in many vibrant colours, so there’s one of these zingy daisies to suit every colour scheme. Also good as cut flowers. Height: 30-90cm. Flowers in 16 weeks.
Annual climbers, like this cup-and-saucer vine, Cobaea, quickly cover unsightly walls. They can also be trained to make a feature up an obelisk. Height: 6m. Flowers in 16 weeks.
Amaranthus bear fuzzy flowers in bold spikes or weeping tails. Choose from plants with red or green flowers and foliage. Height: 45-120cm. Flowers in 12 weeks.
Very quick and easy to grow, nasturtiums produce long, trailing stems covered in neat, round leaves and bright flowers. Spread: 35-100cm. Flowers in 10-12 weeks.
Mildew-resistant Verbena x hybrida 'St George' has deep green foliage and a spreading habit. Stunning red and white flowers. Height: 15-25cm (6-10in). Flowers in 14 weeks.