The Magnificent Summer Annuals
May 20th, 2006
Summer’s flowers are the brightest and the boldest in the garden, as radiant as the sun itself. Most need heat (the two most popular, marigolds and zinnias, come from sunny Mexico), and they shouldn’t be planted until the weather swears to stay warm. In the West this usually means planting in March or April, or even waiting until May or June in the higher elevations.
Two of the brightest summer annuals- marigold and gloriosa daisies- come in many forms. There are small-flowered French marigolds, big American hybrids, and just about every size between them. Summer’s flowers aren’t as easy to grow as those of spring. Warm weather brings out bugs and disease that may bother them and regular watering becomes more critical, but they are a tough lot born to grow in the sun. The following is a list of some of the best annuals for summer.
Ageratum: Flat, fuzzy clusters of violet-blue flowers cover this foot-tall plant throughout the summer. Good as a filler or in the front row. Best planted from packs or pots.
Sweet Alyssum: As good in the summer as it is in the winter and spring, it grows in low mounds of white or purplish flowers. Midnight, a dark purple variety and Wonderland, a pinkish purple one, are less likely to fade in summer’s heat. Dwarf kinds are dense, stay under four inches. Best grown from seed. The white varieties almost never fail to return year after year.
Cosmos: Bushy plants with vivid, daisy-like flowers on long, thin stems. There are two distinct kinds, one with brilliant yellow or orange flowers and one with flowers in shades of pink, mulberry, and white. Both have the same airy effect in the garden, growing to three feet tall or more. Easy to grow from seed, packs or pots. Look for both dwarf and tall growing varieties.
Gloriosa Daisy: Huge daisy flowers on tall but graceful plants growing to four feet. Flowers usually golden, often with dark mahogany markings, though some are completely mahogany in color. Irish Eyes has a bright green center. Easily grown from seed, packs or pots.
Lobelia: six-inch-tall plants often with dark reddish foliage and bright blue to violet flowers. A good filler that contrasts nicely with summer’s many golden flowers. Best grown from packs or pots.
Marigold: Summer’s favorite flower hardly needs describing. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Marigolds are easily grown from seed, packs or pots.
Portulaca: Low-spreading succulent plants with shimmering flowers almost too brilliant for the garden, in shades of yellow, orange, red, cerise, coral, and white. Loves hot weather. Easy to grow from seed or packs.
Verbena: Usually planted as annuals. The kinds sold as bedding plants have rounded clusters of white, pink, red, or violet flowers, grow under a foot tall, and should be planted two feet apart. They are seldom out of bloom. Very useful in the foreground of the garden. Best grown from packs or pots.
Vinca: The best annual for really hot weather, it is also long lasting, well into winter. A foot tall with neatly growing white flowers with red eyes or rosy pink flowers. Look for the new hybrid varieties in shades of red and purple. Best grown from packs or pots.
Zinnia: The brightest of summer flowers, zinnias come in many sizes, forms and colors. All come in brilliant shades of yellow, orange, pink, rose, scarlet, cream, and violet. Prettiest when planted as a mix of colors. Easy to grow from seed or packs. Become root bound in pots.