MY FAVORITE ANNUALS
As a contemporary garden designer, I’m constantly looking for new ways to add beauty and elegance to the garden. I try to focus on planting schemes that I know will enrich the visual feast of my garden, and the plants I consistently turn to for guaranteed colour and impact at this time of year are annuals. Like many gardeners I have my own personal favourites. I always choose these same 4 or 5 plants every year. Why? That’s simple. It’s because I know not only are these plants beautiful; they also never let me down.
So, what are my favourite annuals? Well, my own personal favourites are Geraniums, Begonia Rex, Cosmos, and Pansies. Why do I choose these plants? The simple reason is that these humble annuals are actually great value for money and always deliver reliably. They’re versatile, fairly resilient and will add colour, sparkle and texture to your garden throughout the summer season. Annuals may not be quite as showy as other garden perennials, but when used with flair and imagination, I believe annuals have the power to transform an ordinary border or seasonal container into something exceptional.
My Favourite Annuals
There are few garden plants that are as reliable and dependable as the hardy geranium. Whatever the location of your garden sun or shade, dry or damp – there’s a geranium to suit. Planted either in the borders or in containers, geraniums seem to flower endlessly throughout the summer and can tolerate neglect if they are not watered regularly. They are available in a variety of colours from pink to purple and white through to blue. Orange and red geraniums are particularly useful if you’re trying to create a Mediterranean-style garden. They have handsome foliage, and make excellent ground cover. The added advantage of the humble geranium is that it remains relatively untroubled by slugs and snails.
Rex begonias, or Begonia rex, are grown for their colourful, dramatic foliage. If you want to add drama to a garden bed or create an arresting container display, then few plants will deliver like begonia rex. Begonia rex has large, metallic green leaves with splashes of silver on the upper surface, and a reddish tone beneath. There are many different cultivated varieties, sporting large leaves with streaks, spirals or veins, and often with splashes of silver, pink, purple green and burgundy. Begonia rex will flower throughout the summer and can tolerate neglect if not watered regularly.
Cosmos are freely flowering annual plants that are incredibly easy to grow. If you’re looking for a flower that will stay in bloom for months and can be grown by simply scattering seeds, cosmos are a great choice. The flowers are elegant, open daisies and are available in a range of colours from white through to purple and pink. Cosmos will go on producing flowers until the first frosts if they are dead-headed regularly. The flower heads may be bowl or open cup–shaped and sit on top of long stems which can grow as high as 70 cms and form a cloud of colour that not only looks attractive throughout the summer, but also attract bees, butterflies and birds to your garden. Cosmos can handle drought, poor soil conditions and general neglect. They even self-sow, but not to the point of becoming a nuisance.
Pansies are short-lived perennials that are grown as annuals. Pansies are great plants for winter colour and are useful for adding an injection of colour into spring borders. They are generally the first plants we put in the garden. The large, blousy, blooms are available in a wide range of colours, though my preference is for the more muted colours like cream and pale blue. Pansies can be grown in containers, borders, and are useful as ground cover. Although great plants in their own right, pansies also combine well with other early spring blooms such as sweet alyssum and snapdragons. Pansies are cool season annuals, so as the summer gets warmer, their blooming slows down. However, deadheading will encourage them to bloom for longer.