One of the best ways to get quick colour into your garden is with flowering annuals. Modern forms of annual plants have been bred and selected for improved colour ranges, flower variation and disease resistance. In our mild climates many short-lived perennials and biennials are grown as annuals.
Soil and Position for annuals
Soil should be well drained and have good structure (i.e. soil should be fluffy, with adequate balance between pore spaces and solid particles). Soil structure, nutrient and water-holding abilities can be improved by adding some old organic matter (mushroom compost, old manure, compost) to the soil before planting.
Most annuals prefer a sunny spot in the garden although a few will take a small amount of shade. The shade-tolerant list includes: bedding begonias, coleus, foxgloves, impatiens, honesty, primulas, polyanthus, cinerarias, violas, pansies.
Taller growing annuals should be planted in a position that is protected from strong winds.
Fertiliser and pH
Add some complete fertiliser (such as Thrive All Purpose) to the soil before planting. Feed young annuals with a soluble or liquid fertiliser – Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser to encourage good plant development. Most annuals prefer a pH (lime level) of about 6 (slightly acidic). Some, like sweet peas, dianthus and gypsophila, will tolerate higher lime levels.
Planting time is critical. Planting either too early or too late will mean that annuals reach maturity when weather conditions are unsuitable. Another factor to consider is that many annuals flower in response to day length or changes in levels of light so must be grown to mature at the right time.
Garden and Colour Planning
This is very much a matter of personal taste. Some gardeners prefer colour schemes that blend similar shades together. Others like to grow contrasting colours that ‘shout’ at each other. The best advice is to check flower colour before planting and adjust accordingly. It is also important to plan for the plant’s ultimate height. As a general rule, taller plants go to the back of a bed, but this may be varied for specific effects.
Seeds or Seedlings?
Again, this is a matter of personal choice. Seeds take longer and need more initial care, but are cheaper. Mixed packets of annual seeds can be sprinkled to grow an interesting, colourful, cottage garden effect.