The tardy gardener’s little secret is hardy annuals. You can still sow these during May and enjoy a bountiful crop of colour in borders, containers or maybe in patches grown specifically for use as gorgeously twee cut flowers.
Their requirements are literally ‘throw and sow’; any well-raked garden soil will create the perfect mattress for their bedspread of colour! I’ve always grown hardy annuals; both in blocks of one type or as a vivid, crazy mixes of just about everything! Mix them up with some light sand before sowing to ensure a good even mix. This year I’m trying a few tailored combos - blue nigella with creamy Californian poppies, and I’m upping the citrus circus of calendula with poached egg plant (limnanthes).
"Last-minute gardeners" will love the urgency of hardy annuals, the seeds will emerge less than a week after being sown and as the weather warms, the plants will quickly bulk up. They’re perfect for gaps between perennials and shrubs that haven’t quite reached their final size and bare patches which are perhaps a poorer soil.
One of the most well-known of hardy annuals is certainly the English marigold (calendula) and it’s hard to believe such colour can be achieved so quickly and effortlessly from that small, curved seed. The petals are edible too, so you can jazz up salads or add colour to rice (if you ever wanted to!). Choose some of the varieties like 'Porcupine' or 'Chrysantha' for something really different.
Similar to calendula but not seen as often are the annual chrysanthemums: 'Polar Star' and 'Sunset' are both a doddle to grow and take the stress and worry out of growing chrysanths! Throw and sow and soon the big, bulky, fern-leaved plants will fill any border gaps.
Aside from well-known nasturtiums and Californian poppies, there are also quite a few lesser-known hardy annuals such as lupins 'Dwarf Fairy Pink' and 'Sunrise', which are mega-quick to flower, but also sweetly fragrant. Now that’s a lupin to puzzle your garden visitors! Don't forget big, voluptuous lavatera either, with their unashamedly pink trumpet blooms, and almost shrub-like stance for borders.
And, if you haven’t got the patience for some perennials like delphiniums, then why not try larkspur - a fantastic annual which is easy from seed and gives giant plumes just like delphiniums. An impressive cut flower which you can grow yourself!
One final star of the show and a bit of a T&M; find is cerinthe. It’s a plant that appears like no other with metallic, blue-purple-green-mauve flowers, which are often swarming with bees and butterflies. It’s one classy plant and drought tolerant too, so try it out this season!
Bye for now,