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Annuals amazing flowering show


Neville Passmore


1 May 2019

Most annuals don't even last a year, more like a single season.

However, they are programmed to put on an extraordinary heavy flowering show during their short life. Plant breeders have spent countless hours working on these plants to enhance colours and forms. Today's cultivated annuals can be unrecognizable when compared to their wild antecedents. What we do have today however, is an unprecedented selection of dazzling colour across the seasons. 

What is available for planting now?

Autumn is a great time for planting out new annuals that will flower through the winter months going into spring. Petunias are a bit of a surprise package here in Perth, as they will perform well through our mild winters.  This made our city the petunia capital of the Southern Hemisphere because plants are available over 12 months of the year.  

One of the main families for autumn planting is the violet, specifically viola and pansy. Plant now and you can still enjoy flowering through to Christmas. Colours have moved beyond purple shades to include almost the whole rainbow and it's not just the bright bold shades, there are now many subtle colours much beloved on garden designers. 

Ageratum (pictured right) is famous for its soft blue powder puff flowers.  Alyssum is a ground-hugging member of the cabbage family, which makes a colourful ground cover and at the same time out competes many annual weeds.   

Lobelia (pictured right) is most admired for its intense blue and purple blooms. It has a low spreading growth habit making it excellent value for hanging baskets.   

Marigolds come in two main types. So-called French marigolds (South America is the true home of all marigolds) have small flowers in colours of gold orange and rusty red and tend to be short growers to 30cmAfrican marigolds are taller plants up to a metre high, with large fully double flowers, these come in bright yellows and orange as well as creamy white forms. 

Calendula is sometimes referred to as a marigold, however, it is unrelated.  Bright flowers often in orange and yellow have edible petals often included in Mescal salads.  

Begonia have a small range of colours in shades of pink red and white but their crystalline flowers have a jewel like quality and they do exceptionally well in shaded locations. These are certainly well suited to growing in pots and hanging baskets. 

Snapdragon (pictured right) is a showy annual with tall spires of flowers opening from the base towards the top of the flower spike.  These flowers are good value as cut blooms for indoor display. The colour range is wide and bright. And kids love pinching the blooms to make the dragons jaws snap open. 

Verbena flowers consist of small posies covering a ground hugging plant.  Traditionally, the colours included red, blue and purple shades. Newer forms have stretched the rainbow to include orange and apricot. Many forms have two different colours in the same flower. When these bicolour types include white, it brings a sparkling effect to the base colour. 

Sweet pea is a climbing plant that can cover a fence in double quick time and present hundreds of blooms, which can be cut for an indoor show in a vase.

Livingston Daisies are one of my favourite succulent annuals that really do bring razzle-dazzle to the garden with their neon bright flowers.  When they?re finished, make sure to shake the plants around as you pull them up to sow the seeds for next years show. 

Here are a few more to look up for planting out this season - cineraria, forget-me-nots, gypsophila, dianthus, nasturtium, nemesia, polyanthus, poppy, statice, Sweet William, stock, wallflower, primula and linaria.

How to use annuals in the home garden 

Bold mass plantings are not so common these days, partly because home blocks are smaller and there are not so many large areas to plant this way. Queens Gardens in East Perth is still one of my favourite places to see such bold planting schemes. Strategic colour is now the garden designers watchword. This translates on the ground as small beds of colour, potted annuals and mixed plantings of annuals and perennials to add bursts of colour. With smaller blocks, gardens are also shrinking in size. This has set the scene for growing annuals in pots, troughs and even vertical or Greenwall gardens. 

At the recent Perth Garden Festival Baileys Hanging Basket competition saw a number of great annual baskets. Baskets offer a space saving way of bringing colour to the home. For any potting, make sure to get a high quality mix such as Baileys Premium Potting Mix, that has all you need to create exceptional potted colour. If you are preparing soil for planting annuals then apply a 1 cm thick layer of the new Soil Life Matters Clay and Compost or Baileys Soil Improver. When it comes time to fertilise your annual plants give the new Soil Matters Garden a go.  It's beautifully formulated to give your plants a boost as well as looking after the soil life that makes the vital growing difference.