So late March was the ideal time to be sowing your flowering annuals, but seeds may still be available and if you are quick you will still reap huge rewards for 5 minutes effort. I enjoy annuals most when they are large and loose in stature but definitely the stylish side of scruffy.
Neat, low and overly uniform bedding schemes can seem disciplinarian, static, one dimensional and dated (yes that’s pretty much all bad) but choose carefully and you can achieve a dramatic voluminous display that flowers throughout summer to the first frosts of late autumn. You will also have a garden full of butterflies and bees.
Always check the expected height of your plants before you order seed. This varies hugely within cultivars of the same genus and obviously this determines the situation and your planting partners.
Since we are once again expecting a largely dry season when irrigation will be at best very limited, it is a good idea to mulch the ground after you have planted out your seedling plants. You do this after hardening off the seedlings and the danger of frosts has past. If you are fortunate enough to have a supply of homemade compost/ leaf mould or fine bark chippings then use them. If you are buying in then mushroom compost and green waste are good options.
New cultivars that I am trying here at Garsington this year include the early flowering 18’’ Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Antiquity’ which looks especially decadent in its ruby glory and the medium height C. sulphurous ‘Crest Lemon’ that I intend to thread through my perennial indigo blue salvias. I always fall for cosmos’ Purity’ and ‘Dazzler’ simply because they are tall, elegant and innocently lovely
The tallest Nicotiana- sylvestris (meaning of the woods) and mutablis are another trouble free favourite. Their thick basal leaves develop quickly; creating shade and retaining moisture at the roots. Towering candelabras stems follow, the flowers of n. sylvestris emitting a wonderful heady scent in the evening. Admittedly intended to attract its night time pollinator – but hey, we like it too. N. mutablis has a more branching habit and changeable flower colour but also continues flowering until the frosts – if you plant in a loose group the plants create a wonderful pale forest of flowerheads, good punctuation amid the rich oranges, deep reds and moody violets of autumn.
Don’t miss your opportunity – if you haven’t already sow now.