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In the Garden: Annuals add color after perennials are through

Sun., March 16, 2014

I love perennials because they come up reliably year after year. But annual flowers put on a colorful show in my garden, often long before, and after, each perennial’s blooming season.

Annuals grow, flower, set seed and die in a single growing season. Each year, plant breeders wow us with new varieties that have bigger and more colorful flowers, interesting foliage or improved disease-resistance.

This year is no exception, so let’s take a look at the annuals I would love to squeeze into my garden. All will perform best when grown in a sunny location.

• Cosmidium burridgeanum: This plant’s name is a mouthful, but the scent makes it a worthy addition to any chocoholic’s garden. Philippine has chocolate-scented, bi-colored blossoms of gold with burgundy centers and delicate foliage. The flowers bloom profusely on 16-inch-tall plants (Territorial Seed).

• Hollyhock (Alcea rosea): Everyone loves old-fashioned hollyhocks, but Halo Mixed is particularly captivating with its bi-colored flowers in pink, rose, purple or white and contrasting center eyes. The plants will grow 6 feet tall (Territorial Seed).

• Marigold (Tagetes patula): I appreciate marigolds for their perky blooms and pest-repelling qualities. Legion of Honor is an heirloom seed featuring single, butter-yellow flowers with small burgundy blotches on each petal toward the center. They will grow 12 inches tall (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds). Cottage Red has single, bright-red blossoms with orange centers. At 30 inches high, they’ll be a real standout (Cook’s Garden).

• Mexican sunflower (Torch Tithonia): I saw this variety at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in fall 2012 and was astounded at all of the butterflies mobbing it. The profuse, 4-inch red-orange flowers look stunning among the attractive, deep-green foliage. They grow 4 to 6 feet tall (Baker Creek, Botanical Interests, Cook’s, Johnny’s Select Seeds, Renee’s Garden).

• Spider flower (Cleome): This old-fashioned annual is sure to bring hummingbirds to your garden. The cultivar Color Fountains features tall, spider-like flower clusters in pink, white and rose that look terrific in floral arrangements. Plants can reach up to 5 feet in height under ideal conditions (Renee’s).

• Sunflower (Helianthus annuus): It’s hard to choose just one variety, but Soraya has certainly captured my attention with its 4- to 6-inch orange blooms and large brown center disks. The plants grow 6 feet tall and each one bears up to 25 blooming stems (Harris Seeds, Johnny’s, Territorial Seed).

• Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus): Every time I see a photo of Incense Peach Shades, I just gasp at how lovely the colors are. The fragrant flowers range from ivory to pale peach and salmon and are ideal as cut flowers. It will grow 6 feet high (Cook’s Garden).

• Zinnia: I’m crazy about zinnias. This year, I’m growing Profusion Double Deep Salmon (Z. hybrida) and Persian Carpet (Z. haageana). The Profusion series has tidy, foot-tall mounded plants that are covered with long-lasting blooms. Persian Carpet is a mix of unusual zinnias with 2-inch red, orange, yellow, bronze, chocolate, burgundy or bi-colored blooms and will grow 2 feet tall (Johnny’s).

Susan Mulvihill can be reached at susansin or susansinthegarden.

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