March 3, 2011

Favorite Annuals

With spring right around the corner I've been dreaming about the warmth of summer and the delightful pastime of gardening.

Since I'm a full fledged Flower Freak, and proud of it, I thought it would be fun to start a series of garden related posts about my favorite plants.

Here is what I have planned:

Post #1:  Annuals
Post #2:  Perennials
Post #3:  Shrubs
Post #4:  Bulbs and Edibles
Post #5:  Best of the Best

My hope is to introduce my current favorites in each category, explain why I like them so much and let you know how I use them in the garden.

Are you with me?  Alright - - Let's talk Annuals . . . .

#1:  Zinnia's

Zinnia's are excellent for a cutting garden.  They range in size and color and the best thing about them is the more you pick and more you get.  My girls love them and are constantly picking them.  I fill two 4 X 8 foot beds with them.   I prefer the white, pale pink and "Envy" varieties (lime green color) which I place in one bed.  In the remaining bed I let the girls pick out and plant their own.  We sow them directly into the soil in early May and by mid June they are in full bloom.

#2:  Annual Salvia

I discovered this plant two years ago and it quickly became a favorite.  It gives off a great scent, require very low maintenance and lasts for weeks when picked for arrangements.   It comes in three different colors - pale purple, dark purple and white.  I prefer the pale purple like the ones above.  I have tried the white without much luck - they stayed spindly looking all summer. 

Annual Salvia looks best clumped together in groups of five or more.  I use them all throughout my garden and in the cutting garden.  I love them in front of my white fence in the front yard.

The only complaint I have about them is that they seem to take a so long to get going.  I purchase them at my local garden center in May and they limp along until July when they start flowering like crazy until the frost gets them in October!  So if your patient annual saliva is worth the wait.

#3:  Impatiens

For years I resisted Impatiens, viewing them as over used everywhere I looked.  Out of pure desperation to brighten up a shady spot in my front yard I buckled and picked up just enough to fill one pot.   That's when I discovered they are used so much for a reason.  This is one tough little plant that flowers like crazy and is super low maintenance.  Plus they grow in the shade - all summer long - which is hard to come by.  They can take the heat and humidity of a Minnesota August and bounce back from drought conditions is a heartbeat.  Last year after a unseasonable hot week without rain I came home from a camping trip to find them looking beyond help - flat, hanging down the sides of their pot, looking like they were toast - I decided to give them a little water and see what happened.  Amazingly, within a couple hours they looked as if I had just planted them. 

I prefer to grow them in pots.  I have tried them directly in the garden beds without much success.  My favorite shade is a pale white with pink centers.  Three - four packs fill in a large sized planter very nicely,  giving a lush full look.

#4:  Dahlia

Technically a bulb I never get them dug up in the fall before the frost gets them so I treat them as annuals.  Ranging in size from dinner plate to one inch, Dalia's are a drop dead gorgeous flower.  I have found the rabbits and grubs tend to like them as much as I do, so a little extra care is needed.

I prefer the yellow, pink and two-toned varieties like the one above.  In the cutting garden I grow the larger dinner plate size.  I also group the smaller 12" tall type in both my front yard garden and back yard gardens.  I pick them up in the annual section of my local garden store.  The color is normally a mixer of yellow, pink and coral.  Deadheading keeps them blooming from planting time in May until a deep frost.

#5:  Dianthus

I love Dianthus for the simple fact that they start blooming so quickly in the spring.  By June they are in full bloom when not much else is here in Minnesota.  Technically an annual, mine have been coming back for the past five years.

Dianthus stay blooming for a good long while and will rebloom if deadheaded.  I use them in both shade and full sun and they do great in both locations.

#6:  Larkspur

Larkspur is a relatively new plant to me.  I've been growing them for the past two years and I love them because they reseed like crazy and they remind me of Delphinium which I haven't had much luck growing.  I grew them from seed in my cutting garden and now I have so many they are taking over one of my paths.  Since they are one of my favorite cut flowers I can't bring myself to thin them out.

The only regret I have about Larkspur is that I haven't had much luck getting them to rebloom after clipping which I think they are suppose to do.  Also, they don't last very long in the garden.  Only for the month of July then they start going to seed.  While they are growing they are fabulous.

#7:  Profusion Zinnia

I know Zinnia's have already made my list but I discovered this size last year and loved them so much I'm giving them their own spot on my list.  If you haven't given them a try, make sure this is the year you do.  I promise you won't be disappointed.

Profusion Zinnia's are twelve inches tall and loaded with cheerful one inch flowers All. Summer. Long!  They spread out nicely and give your garden a lush, full look.  I tend to plant them closer then recommend but they don't seem to mind.  The do grow taller this way though.

I prefer the yellow and pink shades, called profusion yellow and profusion cherry.  Both are great for filling in any holes in the garden.  I use them in the backyard garden for this reason.  In the front yard I plant them along of my white picket fence and tucked in around other plants.  A weekly deadheading will have them look fabulous all growing season.

#8:  Cosmos

To me, Cosmos are the perfect plant for placing in canning jars.  They look amazing in any flower arrangement but alone in a simple jar they are stunning.

Somewhat tall at three to four feet you will need to have a large enough space to grow them.  I've been growing them in my cutting garden for years.  Personally I don't like them in my normal garden beds since they tend to be tall and wispy and like to flop around.  The best thing about Cosmos is their low maintenance.  Simple plant, water once a week and you'll have handfulls of blooms every week, all season long.

Whew!  Sorry to be so long winded.  Once I get talking gardening it very hard to shut me up!


  1. This was so informative Robin! I love cosmos, impatiens and larkspur. I've never tried planting the larkspur before but will have to now. I can't wait till you get to the perennials! I hope these are daily posts and I'm not going to have to wait till next week for the next one! Lol.

  2. Hey girl - over at my gardening blog I have a giveaway going on: win $100 worth of Annuals delivered to you from Proven Winners, it ends midnight March 4th...

  3. I love, love, love salvias. I always do the dark purple. And I thought it was just me that couldn't get them to do much in the early summer. They are always so gorgeous around August though! Great idea for a series!

  4. I love all your flowers Robin! I have lots of Impatiens because we are mainly shade and they do so well in my window boxes! I hoping to do some annuals this year to introduce some color. I have mainly perennials but my garden needs a lot of help! :)

  5. Robin, so informative and pretty...I am ready for flowers

  6. Thank you so much for this post. We are just starting our garden and I took lots of notes! Beautiful pictures too!

  7. This is a fantastic post. It really was informative and most helpful and pretty to look at. :) I am going to write down your suggestions. Thanks!!!

  8. Not long winded, just very informative :-) I loved all the info. I've been out today weeding and getting the soil turned. I can't wait to start planting!

  9. Hi Robin,

    I'm just now reading this fantabulous series (it's been a busy week) and I wanted to thank you for doing it. I'm learning so much! Fly your Flower Freak flag proudly! :)



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