FLOWERING annuals are the mainstay of the summer garden, providing colour and quick fixes to new and established plots.
Here’s my top 10 varieties - some new to the market, or just very unusual. As a general rule, hardy annuals can be sown direct where they are to flower, while half-hardy annuals need some warmth to germinate and can’t go outside until after the last frosts.
1. Argemone subfusiformis: a whopping member of the poppy family, this half-hardy annual can grow to 6m in a season and is fairly new to cultivation.
It’s very easy to grow, with big yellow flowers and thorny, silvery leaves, buds and fruits. Will self-seed happily.
From Plant World Seeds, www.plant-world-seeds.com, £2.55.
2. Aster Chrysanthemum Flowered Apricot (Callistephus chinensis): this half-hardy annual type has enormous incurved flowers in soft apricot pink, which should provide 5-6 strong stems, growing to 75cm.
From Plants of Distinction, www.plantsofdistinction.co.uk, £2.25 for 150 seeds.
3. Nasturtium Phoenix (Tropaeolum minus): split petals in fiery shades of gold, orange and red. Hardy annual, very easy to grow, height: 30cm, spread: 35cm.
From Thompson & Morgan, www.thompson-morgan.com, £2.49 for 25 seeds.
4. Carthamus: Colourful, spiky blooms which should be cut in bud for home decoration. Easy-to-grow hardy annual that blooms over a long period. Height 80cm.
From Suttons, www.suttons.co.uk, £1.99.
5. Mirabilis - Marbles Mixed Marvel of Peru: beautiful striped bicoloured fragrant flowers, which open in the evening, hence its common name of the Four O’Clock Plant. It produces different colours on the same plant. Half-hardy annual, height 60-90cm.
From Dobies, www.dobies.co.uk, £1.99 for 25 seeds.
6. Blue Ripple Sweet Pea: the marbled sky-blue flowers blooms have a darker blue blotch to the underside and a delicate perfume, hardy annual, height 180cm.
From Marshalls, www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk, £2.79.
7. Californian Poppy XL Yellow (Eschscholzia californica): big “double” flowers that look fabulous sown in large drifts or in patio containers, they thrive on poor, dry soil. Height: 25cm, hardy annual.
From Mr Fothergill’s, www.mr-fothergills.co.uk, £2.29 for 200 seeds.
8. Petunia African Sunset F1: the first true orange petunia from seed. Masses of blooms in shades of orange and terracotta, height 30cm.
From DT Brown, www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk, £3.99.
9. Ammi visnaga Green Mist: With feathery foliage and domed umbels of tightly packed, greenish-white flowers, this hardy annual is superb for cutting, height 1m.
From Chiltern Seeds, www.chilternseeds.co.uk, £1.65.
10. Lace flower White Finch (Orlaya grandiflora): Easy-to-grow hardy annual with white lacy blooms which resemble lace-cap hydrangeas above the fine, fern-like foliage. Will bloom until the first frosts, height 70cm.
From Jungle Seeds, www.jungleseeds.co.uk, £1.95 for 30 seeds.