Annuals are those plants which complete their lifecycles in the shortest time. Within a single year, they grow quickly from seed, produce masses of bloom then set their next generation of seeds before returning to earth as compost. Usually, a change in weather tells them they’ve come to the end of their season. In autumn we say goodbye to summer’s marigolds and petunias and hello to hardy ‘cool’ annuals.
Pansies, violas and primulas keep life colourful through autumn winter and spring. In milder climates the likes of Iceland poppies and sweet peas are planted out in autumn for late winter and spring flowering, while in coldest climates they are started in green houses for planting out in early spring. Every climate is different, and your local garden centre is the place to go for help when deciding what to plant when.
As the most temporary flowers in our gardens, annuals provide wonderful scope as fast fillers while we wait for slower growing plants to reach maturity. As the quickest growers, they are the ultimate makeover flowers.
And because they cost less, they’re perfect for experimenting with. Trying out different planting combinations is fun and easy with rapid results and its exciting to create a fresh new look every season. Low growing annuals like pansies, lobelia and alyssum are perfect for pots, while taller annuals such as cosmos, sweet peas and poppies are among the best flowers to grow for picking.
TIP: To grow an abundance of bloom for picking, sow a batch of seed in autumn and some more in early spring. The more you pick, the more they flower!
All that blooming takes a lot of energy so your annuals will thank you for feeding them with their very best flowering performance. Add slow release fertiliser at planting time and supplement once a month with liquid feeding. Be sure to water in dry weather. While many are drought tolerant, annuals are generally quite thirsty plants because they don’t have time to grow deep roots.
Remove spent flowers or pick them regularly. This keeps plants looking good and ensures continuous and prolific flowering. If plants become tired and ragged mid-season, a quick cut back and a feed is often all that’s required to make them bounce back into bloom with renewed vigour.
Pansies and violas
Exceptionally long flowering and in just about every colour, pansies and violas are fantastic in pots, hanging baskets, and garden borders in sun or part shade.
Snapdragons produce rows of flowers on tapering spikes in colours that cover most of the spectrum. Plant dwarf forms in pots or taller varieties for picking.
Nothing compares with a freshly picked bunch of sweet peas. They are best grown from seed sown directly into well prepared soil.
With petals like crumpled silk, in luminous shades of pink, apricot, yellow or white, Iceland poppies glisten in the late winter sun.
Cheerful calendulas light up winter in happy tomes of yellow, orange and amber - a welcome sight when they pop up via self-sown seed.
Pansies brighten the garden in all colours
Sweet peas - colourful and fragrant
Iceland poppies love the sun
Calendula come in bright orange and yellow, single or double petalled