One of the striking features of this year's shows has been the number of exhibits featuring the old-fashioned annuals that we thought had all been replaced by dumpy little bedding plants. But this year, they're back.
While timing the plants to be at their best for show garden is quite an art, in the garden they are easy to raise from seed sown direct in the soil in spring.
Easy to grow and fast to flower, hardy annuals can be sown directly outdoors where they are to grow. They are unrivaled for bringing summer colour to the garden. They can also used in a more formal way, the seeds can be sown in trays, moved on individually into pots and planted out exactly where you want them to create the best effect.
Hardy Annuals flower between mid-June and mid-September, ensuring as many flowers as possible are available to the bees and butterflies at their most active time of the year.
You don't need vast amounts of space. Indeed, a bed as small as a dining table can be just as effective as a generous sweep. They can even be grown in containers.
The Red Garden Annual Flower Mix
In the garden red flowers are valued for the sharp contrast they produce. They stand out, enlivening foliage with a burst of colour. Even on the dreariest day, red flowers have a dramatic visual impact.
A colour for seduction, romance and danger, red is a powerful and bold colour statement. In cultures across the world, red is seen as a symbol of love and passion.
Growing to an average height of 70cm (28in), this annual flower mix is ideal for beds and borders and for cut flowers.
Major components include:
Adonis aestivalis bloodred, Amaranthus Pygmy Torch, Centaurea Red Ball, Collomia cavanillesii, Coreopsis tinctoria red, Cosmos Crest Red, Delphinium Scarlet, Gypsophila crimson, Helichrysum purple-red, Impatiens scarlet, Linum grandiflorum rubrum, Mirabilis jalapa bright red, Phlox tall coccinea, Salvia coccinea scarlet, Vinca rosea tall carmine, Zinnia Lilliput scarlet
Seeds should be sown at around 2.5 grams per square metre, (10 grams to cover 4 square metres), but can be sown at a higher or lower density, dependent on the results desired.
Do not sow too thickly, while it is good for plants to offer each other a little support you don't want them to out compete one another.
Timing: Sow in Spring or in Autumn.
Sowing can begin from late March to early June as the soil begins to warm up (often indicated by the emergence of weed seedlings). It may begin earlier in milder gardens of the south and west; in colder northern gardens sowing may be later.
Seeds can also be sown in the autumn so they flower earlier the following year. A spring sowing differs from an autumn sowing in that it tends to produce a later flowering display. It should be noted that although these plants usually withstand frosty conditions without protection, some hardy annuals would benefit with a covering with horticultural fleece or a cloche when a heavy prolonged frost is forecast.
Weed the bed, level the soil with a rake and tread lightly before sowing. Mixing the seeds with dry sand will ensure a more even distribution of seeds. You can easily see where seeds have fallen and any bare patches can be covered.
Sowing the seeds can be done either by broadcast sowing or by sowing in drills. Broadcasting sowing is quick and easy, the seeds are simply scattered evenly over the surface of the soil. The main disadvantage of broadcasting is that you cannot easily tell weed seedlings apart from your sowings.
Alternatively, the seeds can be sown in drills (shallow grooves) 30cm (12in) apart, to produce drifts of flower for a natural appearance. Although this takes a little more time it is time well spent as the flowers appear in rows and can be told from any weed seedlings easily.
Water seeds / plants if conditions are dry. The plants may benefit from support in exposed gardens.
At the end of the flowering season you can either leave the seed heads for the birds to eat or cut the flowers down. Annual mixes are designed to last for only one year but if the area sown is left uncut you may get some flowers next season from self-sown seed.
At the end of the flowering season the dead stalks can be cut down and any weeds removed. The area can then be re-cultivated in time for the following season.
Beds and borders, Cottage/Informal, Cut Flower Arranging, Low Maintenance, Wildlife Gardens.
- Additional Information
Cultivar The Red Garden - Annual Flower Mix Common Name Ideal for beds and borders and for cut flowers Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers Mix of Red Shades Natural Flower Time June to September Height 70cm (28in) Position Full sun or partial shade Soil Moist, well-drained, fertile soil is best. Coverage Sow at around 2.5 grams per square metre