Summer annuals give you great payback
Published 12/05/2015 | 00:00
It may be the only gardening, apart from grass cutting, you do each year. There are very few households that don't plant some summer bedding plants at this time of year. A planted pot by the front door, a colourful window box outside the kitchen window or a hanging basket on the shed.
It's the one garden project most people feel they can tackle successfully and feel confident they can achieve good results. And, if you are into colour, there are no plants that pay you back more than summer annuals.
You can go brash and vibrant with hot oranges and reds of marigolds and salvias. Tone it down with pastels of subtle pinks and blues with Bizzie Lizzies and petunias. Maybe a sophisticated touch with all white verbenas and cosmos. I would suggest always using a white flower in all colour schemes as it knocks other colours into shape and helps harmonise the most outlandish colour clashes.
Firstly mid May is plenty of time to be planting out summer bedding. All of these plants are grown under cover in greenhouses or polytunnels and are mollycoddled with optimum temperatures, watering and feeding. Even in May we are subjected to some pretty rough weather, so don't be tempted by a warm sunny Easter and get planting too early.
Unless you are planting for a special occasion and want instant impact I think it is better to buy smaller plants. Not only are they cheaper but they will establish more quickly and before you know it will have caught up in size with the more expensive larger plants that are available. Multiplant modules packs are a good way to buy and many varieties are for sale this way.
Some of my personal favourites are Nicotiana, the tobacco plant, with its fragrant flowers. Cosmos in rich velvety colours as well as white. Daisy shaped flowers always give a very soft natural look to a planting scheme. The unfashionable powdery blue Ageratum is due a come back and is great used as low edging for a border. There is a white variety too which is equally lovely. If using as a border edge stick to either all blue or all white, it's much easier on the eye.
Not all annuals are available as plants but you can grow many others from seeds. In my teens I used to sow Salpiglossis, I was swayed by the seed packet description of the flower, sumptuous and exquisite.
Mignonette was another I grew, an old fashioned unassuming little green flowered annual but I grew it for its sumptuous and exquisite fragrance. It looks like the Salpiglossis seed packet still manages to sway me.