In this Bespoke Bedding section, Living and Growing is glad to offer a wide range of hardy annual flowers that are little known and we believe are very much under-appreciated.
All kinds of annuals bring a sudden burst of colour, often more intense and varied than anything that occurs among perennials, that brings vivid animation to the garden, however small. Window boxes and hanging baskets can enliven the eye and lighten the heart in the bright light of the summer season. The standard summer bedding plants are half-hardy annuals, highly bred to give sturdy and predictable results, and they are increasingly dwarfed, compact and intense, for maximum impact. Pansies, petunias, marigolds, begonias and many more are favourites of the gardening public, and we like them too.
But there is another vast range of Hardy Annuals that are rarely seen outside of a seed catalogue. These are usually less highly cultivated, often close to their wild forebears, and they are certainly less predictable – far from uniform! Many are too tall to work in a hanging basket and they flower at variable stages of the summer. Some are just the opposite of compact, with longer stems and airy clouds of small flowers that dance in the breeze.
From the many delightful forms of poppy (most especially the splendid Californian tribe – Escholtzia) to the exotic variations on Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella), through Coreopsis, the mallow family, the cornflower tribe and out-of-fashion classics like Godetia to botanical rarities like Legousia or Cuphea, these flowers cover a vast range of colours, sizes and shapes, sometimes with dazzling effect. Grown in colour combinations, or in what might be called the “riot of colour” approach, they can give a joyous impression of the wonders of nature. And they can be artfully combined to herbaceous or shrub arrangements, bringing a much lighter and more ephemeral quality that is often missing from set-pieces. Graham Rice, the noted English garden writer who maintains and promotes flower gardens in both England and the USA, has been the champion of this range of flowers for many years, always promising that they are the “coming thing” that has never quite arrived.
Being believers in “Celebrating Difference” among people, we like to extend this celebration to flowers! So, we are offering a wide variety of hardy annuals as garden-ready young plants to be available in mid-May for planting out along with your half-hardy bedding. Have a browse of our list and look at the photos in the Gallery and choose what you’d like. In the winter, we’ll post reviews of lesser known annuals to give you an idea of what is possible. And if you have a favourite variation that we aren’t offering, let us know and we can grow it for you.