Author: JM   Date Posted:2 April 2018 



We delight in flowers , their colours, form and function and so we grow a varied array of them, each season bringing a particular emphasis to a specific group bulbs early in the growing season, to shrubs and perennials  in late spring and early summer to annuals and daisies in the latter part of summer into autumn.. As with any human pursuit the pleasure you derive from gardening is commensurate with the effort you put in to it and so as the days warm and the season for frosts abates, our attention turns to sowing half hardy and tender annuals, that  group of flowers which give so much pleasure  for just a little extra effort .Annuals add sparkle, diversity and an all- round sense of abundance that from our viewpoint is essential to the enjoyment of our garden.

The crux of growing annuals successfully, and with the least effort, is choosing those varieties which most closely parallel their native habitat with your  garden conditions, but that can be said of all garden plants  - matching a plants original habitat to the prevailing conditions in your garden just makes sense.

Annuals by their very nature are opportunists and will grow in quite inhospitable conditions, their speed of growth and short life cycle takes advantage of the small window of opportunity for growth in their native habitat and we as gardeners can use that to our own ends. In the early part of the growing season, Nigella ( Love in the Mist) Papaver ( Poppies) of all sorts, Lobularia ( Allysum) and Violas are just some of the varieties  all too willing to seed around with abandon creating a sea of colour early in the season for very little effort.

In our experience the more demanding  varieties of annual flowers are those whose habitats are of the sub-tropical or tropical kind, the tender annuals, obviously not for gardeners in Sydney or Brisbane but for those in cooler areas the odd year may prove too cold for success, but then, where would the fun be  if  success was a certainty? Our attitude to any failures is just  'let's move on', there are plenty of fish in the sea. The variety of annuals available in this country has for the most part been limited, due to the vested interests of large seed companies or seedling producers, to a few predictable genera. These companies have over the decades reduced our understanding  of what an annual  is,  to those varieties which are of most interest to breeders and consequently most easily procurable . But there is a whole host of wonderfully easy annuals that will fill the garden to overflowing with just a small amount of preparation and forethought.

 The ease with which a satisfying display can be achieved depends on a  gardeners idea of  beauty, some will find a mass of Greater Queen Anne's Lace (Ammi visnaga) is intoxicating whilst others will find it 'weedy', a mass of  Sunflowers to some is the essence of Summer and yet brash to others, mixed Zinnias may fail to thrill but a display of one variety or colour will hit the spot.

At Frogmore , we use annuals to intensify the colour saturation of our gardens at a time of year when our Australian light bleaches it so unforgivingly. By using clear colours, the intended feeling or mood of each area is reinforced and made legible to our visitors ( the 'legibility' of a garden ,or  its ability to convey it's message, is a fascinating subject but more of that at a later date) which is why we prefer to use annuals in separate colours if available. Even if a looser more 'wildflower' effect is wanted it takes on a unity and delicacy  when the colours are harmonized or toned. If a daring colour clash is what is preferred this is best done by combining the chosen colours but in different flower forms, the same flower grown as a commercial mixture will mostly lack conviction in the hands of all but the most masterly colourist and even then other colours will have been mustered around it to lend visual cohesion.

This season our pale garden is being reinvented by the addition of a lovely soft primrose yellow Sunflower called Vanilla Ice (Helianthus debilis 'Vanilla Ice') to last year's successful combination of Queen Anne's Lace and White Cosmos interspersed with citron yellow and white Dahlias . This is the great joy of annuals  - just being able to adjust the flavour of a given space without the responsibility of making permanent changes.

In the purple border stocks of Cerise Joy Dahlias have been built up to create an even more startling patches of saturated pink to add zing to the varied purples of the perennial planting . This border will benefit from the addition of Celosia Purple Feather and Purple Giant Candytuft and a few other bits of exotica which we are trialling. Late summer and autumn borders are pretty much dominated by the daisy tribe and so it is important to add plants of contrasting  flower shape to break up the congregation, there is nothing more dull than a daisy ghetto at the bottom of the garden.

In the Flame borders , the surfeit of daisies is leavened by Cannas, Lobelia, Salvia and Phygelius but the saturated effect we aim for ( there is enough subtlety in the Grass Garden) is mostly achieved by the daisy components.

Popular opinion is that perennials are so much less work than annuals but this is only true of a percentage of them and those are only discovered for our individual gardens by trial and error. Each variety will behave differently in different gardens so we are never going to have a one size fits all situation. Discovering those perennials with the longest season  for the least effort is a lifelong process and removing those that love you too much can be a huge task. Annuals on the other hand are quick to add and remove and really shouldn't be dismissed on the ' too much work' premise.











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