Although the weather has warmed, the nights are still too cool to place your annual flowers outside. I was recently at the garden center and overheard a customer asking where the hanging baskets were. The store owner told them they were still out back and not for sale and warned the customer that it was too chilly for the plants to go outside yet. The customers were eager and wanted to get their garden started. That’s a typical reaction when the weather turns sunny.
Instead of buying your annual flowers now, start planning what colours you want and where you want to plant your flowers. By having a plan before shopping you won’t waste money on plants that don’t fit your garden. I tend to do one section of the garden at a time. I decide which plants I want and plant each section. I won’t be planting annual flowers until May. Once the nights warm up to a consistent 12C-15C its time to plant. Plants set out too early will sit and sulk. The cooler nights are not suitable for many of the annual flowers we plant out in late spring.
Last year I chose a green and purple theme for along my front walk. I planted two different colours of Zinnias and some purple Snapdragon. It worked well and supplied me with colour all summer long. That’s the great thing about annual flowers. Unlike their perennial cousins, annual flowers bloom for months on end as long as they are properly cared for.
Many people find annual flowers expensive and they are if you have a large garden. I started growing all my annual flowers from seed this year. So what am I growing? Nasturtiums are one of my favourites and I like to add them to the kitchen garden for colour. They are also edible and brighten up any salad.
It wouldn’t be summer without Zinnias. I fell in love with this wonderful annual a few years ago and always find somewhere to plant them. They are wonderful cut flowers.
I am also growing Marigolds again. I know, it’s an old-fashioned flower but it has staying power. They last until first frost unlike any other annual. There are many kinds of Marigolds you can choose from. I collect seeds from my Marigolds at the end of the season to use the following year. Each finished flower contains hundreds of seeds.
I am trying a couple of new annual flowers from seed this year. One of them is Purple Millet Grass. I had no idea this grass was so easy to grow from seed. I attended a Seedy Saturday event and was able to find seeds for this popular annual grass. It starts out green and later the leaves turn a deep purple. I can’t wait to use this plant in containers and in the ground.
The other annual is Nicotiana. Nicotiana grows quickly from seed. It’s a lovely plant to use in the annual flower garden. It comes in shades of white, reds and pinks. I am growing red Nicotiana and it’s a colour I don’t usually use in the garden. I think the red is a soft one so it should blend well with the other plants in the garden.
Since it’s too early to buy annual flowers, try growing some from seed. You can direct sow many annual flowers this month. Try your hand at growing Sunflowers, Nasturtiums, Snapdragon, Alyssum, Cosmos, Calendula, Cleome, Marigolds and Bachelor’s Buttons. They are easy if you haven’t grown flowers from seed before. You can plant the seeds in small pots and transplant later or plant them directly where you want them to grow. Sometimes its easier to start them in a small pot. It’s very easy to accidentally weed out tiny seedlings if you haven’t grown them before. That’s how I learned. You can save seed from all the flowers listed above by collecting them in the fall. That’s a big saving next year!