An annual is a plant that completes its growing cycle in a single season. That is, it grows from seed, flowers and produces its own seeds through spring/summer or autumn/winter. When you think about it, that is a whole lot of living over a short time!
What I love about annuals is their versatility and endless options for colour, shape, form, size and textures. There is an annual to suit any situation and fill every gap in the garden. No other plants have the same long flowering ability to provide such brilliant displays. Did I mention colour? Colour is a great way of creating a theme, continuity or just adding a splash for something special through the garden and pots. Annuals provide so many colours. They are brilliant for highlighting areas of interest like entranceways and other focal points.
Did you know that some of the annuals we sell in our bedding range areactually perennials? The reason we treat them as annuals is they often will not tolerate winter cold. Plants like salvia, verbena and even impatiens in their homeland will continue through for another summer season.
You can either grow annuals from seed or buy them in seedling packs. Growing them from seed means more work and takes longer but it is economical. You get far more plants for your dollar from seeds than when you buy a punnet of seedlings. Some people get great satisfaction being able to grow and produce something from a seed. To get the most from your annuals plant your seed about 8-10 weeks before you want to put your plants in the garden. Check the time from sown seed to planting on the back of your seed packet as this can vary depending on the variety you choose. Sow seed into trays using a seed raising mix. It is important to use a good seed raising mix that has the right balance of fertilisers, peat and fine bark that will allow the seeds tender roots to grow into the mix. There is a volcanic material called vermiculite that is a great lightweight medium that you can put on top to cover the seed. Due to its light weight, it allows the seeds first stem to grow through it easily. With some varieties, you can sow directly in the ground later in the season.
The first couple of leaves of a seedling are often not ‘true’ leaves. They are actually the cotyledons that become the embryonic first leaves. Once more leaves grow (the ‘true’ leaves), and the seedlings look strong enough you can transplant them into your prepared beds or containers.
Soil preparation is the key to success with annuals. Think of it as the foundation for the plants. Compost, blood and bone, sheep pellets and a good slow release fertiliser all give the sustenance these quick growing gems need for optimum performance. I always try to prepare my beds a week or two before planting by digging in a couple of bags of compost and a bag of blood and bone. A month after planting I apply some Oderings ‘Garden Replenish’, it is the best slow release fertiliser we stock. I always get flowers within six weeks of planting and an extended season.
If you like instant gratification you can buy annuals as seedlings in a punnet or for larger areas buy a box lot that gives great value for money. We have such a fantastic range annual seedlings that the hardest part is choosing what to plant. Make sure you choose varieties that suit the areas you are planting in, sun or shade, damp or dry, short or tall (it is important to grow short ones in a windy spot). If you were unsure what to choose any of our staff would love to discuss the options with you, both in terms of your planting area and your desired colour schemes.
When transplanting it is easier to divide all the plants and place them out where you want them before planting. This way you get a far more even display and you can get the spacing right.
Once planted watering is important. Even if the soil is moist when you plant, you should still water the little plants once you have planted them. Watering can be difficult, because annuals often have a shallow root system they need regular watering, but be careful not to over water. The best way to check the need for watering is to scratch just under the surface of the soil; if it is dry 2-3cm down, you should water.
As I am sure you already know, annuals are not only great in the garden but they are fantastic in pots and containers. You can have bold solid colour or a mixture of colours and textures with tall, medium and trailing varieties. The combinations are endless so have fun designing your own personal displays. Perhaps the best thing about a display of annuals is that you can grow different ones next season, there is no need to be bored.
Lobellia Crystal Palace
Pansy Merlot Ice
Viscaria Blue Angel