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Thursday, July 9, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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In the Garden: Annual varieties add floral pop

This year, there is an interesting array of annual flower varieties guaranteed to elevate any garden from ho-hum to dazzling. Unlike perennials that come back year after year, annuals are plants on a tight schedule because they grow, bloom, set seed and die all in the same year. After perusing the offerings in many seed catalogs, the following have risen to the top of my must-plant list:

MORNING GLORY – Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my marbles: annual morning glory vines are not the same as their invasive cousins known as field bindweed. Milky Way is a delightful new climber with white, trumpet-shaped blossoms that have a breathtaking purple star at the center. Height: up to 10 feet. Source: Natural Gardening Co. (

NASTURTIUM – Little Firebirds has a lot going for it. This trailing nasturtium is ideal for growing in containers, has variegated foliage, and an array of burgundy, coral and pumpkin blossoms. Height: 8 to 10 inches. Source: Renee’s Garden. ( All gardeners enjoy growing something unusual, right? With its split-petal flowers, Phoenix easily meets that requirement. They bloom in shades of red, orange, salmon and yellow. Height: 10 to 12 inches. Source: Burpee. (

PHLOX – Twinkles Dwarf Mix is an annual phlox with a mix of magenta, bright pink, purple, pale lavender and white flowers with fringed, streaked petals. Their compact growth makes them a good selection for containers. Height: 9 inches. Source: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. (

POPPY – Here’s a breadseed poppy with large blossoms sure to take your breath away. Florist Pepperbox has soft pink flowers tinged with red and purple, and creamy centers. In addition to gracing your garden, they will provide poppy seeds for baking and pods for floral arrangements. Height: 3 to 4 feet. Source: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

SNAPDRAGON – Everyone loves the old-fashioned varieties but Madame Butterfly is a standout because its unusual double petals prevent insect pollination. This makes the flowers last much longer in the garden and in floral arrangements. Height: 26 to 36 inches. Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds. (

SUNFLOWER – These plants add a perky quality to the garden with their huge flower heads that follow the sun across the sky. Coconut Ice has creamy-white petals and black centers. Height: 4 to 5 feet. Source: Cook’s Garden. ( Ruby is special for its mahogany petals and golden-rimmed dark centers that remind me of a solar eclipse. Height: up to 7 feet Source: Natural Gardening Co.

SWEET PEA – Once again, the unusual nature of this plant makes me want to grow it. As its name reveals, Belinensis Red Yellow has butter-yellow petals with deep red veins. They are fragrant with a “distinctive” scent, according to the catalog description. Height: 3 to 4 feet. Source: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

ZINNIA – As a longtime fan of zinnias, I appreciate their cheerful blossoms that make excellent cut flowers, their heat-tolerance and ease in growing. The large, double flowers of Dancing Girls in rosy pink and white are very appealing. Height: 18 to 20 inches. Source: Burpee.

Photos of all of the above flowers can be found on my blog, susansinthegarden.

Susan Mulvihill is co-author, with Pat Munts, of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook.” Email her at

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