If you’re a little late with the colour in your garden this year, consider yourself lucky. The cool wet weather has really held things back and caused more than the usual number of insect and disease problems, but there is still plenty of time for a splendid garden. When you do get around to setting out the last of your annual colour plants, why not include a few of the forgotten ‘old-fashioned’ annuals this year. Many of them are still available from seed or as bedding plants, so plant a few of these old charmers.
‘Wave’ petunias still lead the pack of summer favourites with their masses of colourful flowers that smother your garden with waves of vigorous and vibrant colours. They are self-cleaning and a wonderful summer addition.
No garden should be without a few cosmos. They grow very quickly from seed or young transplants and bloom with huge pastel flowers right until frost. The old-fashioned ‘Sensation Mix’ grows about four feet tall and adds an intriguing depth to the lower plantings we all tend to use today. If height is a problem, try the new dwarf ‘Sonata’ series. These smaller plants produce the same huge blooms all summer and are quite drought tolerant as well. Try mixing a few in among your low conifers, azaleas and rhododendrons.
Portulaca has made a huge comeback in the past few years. The large double or single varieties, available in a wide range of vibrant, bright colours, thrive in hot dry locations and look great on slopes. They spread like a carpet, and their spiky foliage is quite interesting in itself.
Salvia is making a comeback too with all the new blue ‘farinacea’ varieties. ‘Victoria Blue’ started the trend, but ‘Evolution’, a new deep violet, ‘Strata’, a silvery mid-blue and the more compact ‘Rhea’ all add a huge new element to our hot summer gardens. They blend especially nicely with yellows and golds.
Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’, ‘Silver Fog’ and the new ‘Breathless Blush’ with its bronze foliage create summer magic. They do very well in full hot sun and look like Baby’s Breath around any flowering plant, creating stunning accents all summer long. We used them in our gardens last year and are tripling their numbers this year.
It is nice to see folks planting the Spider Flower (cleome) these days. These tall, long-blooming annuals make quite a display in your summer gardens. The white blossoms of ‘Helen Campbell’ and the soft pink ‘Rose Queen’ are the most striking. Give them some room because they do grow rather quickly, and watch out for the thorns when you weed them – they don’t mention that in the seed catalogues!
Zinnias have taken a huge leap forward with the new ‘Profusion’ series which spread like a carpet and are full of vibrant colours. They are very disease tolerant and love the heat and drought of summer. The ‘Profusions’ have given new life to zinnias and have made them a ‘must have’ in any garden.
It’s definitely not too late to colour up your garden with some or all of these old time annuals. They grow quickly at this time of year, and you’ll be surprised how fast they can add a fresh new look to any garden. The other big advantage of late planting is the longer-lasting colour they will provide going on into the fall. Try them, and I think you will enjoy them too.