While editing the descriptions for the Garden Walk map, I came across the following: “very few annuals, most from seed.” Gardeners are limited to 25 words for these entries; the idea is to quickly hit the highlights. So, for this gardener, not having annuals (or at least very few) is considered a good thing.
The only problem is that Garden Walk is held at the end of July, a time when roses are often out of bloom (with notable exceptions) and many of the showier perennials (such as irises) are done for the season. Annuals are a guarantee of reliable color at this time. But even if they weren’t, I would still be growing as many interesting annuals as I could. I’m fascinated by them. I love their variety, their reliable performance, and—in many cases—their old-fashioned charm.
These days, one of my favorites is species nicotiana, which I buy as seedlings via mail order (the local selection is pretty dismal). Up already are “Crimson Bedder” (an alata hybrid) and mutabilis, though I imagine the mutabilis will be much taller (I’ve seen it as high as 5 feet). Later, I’ll be seeing the woodland tobacco, with its candelabra of nodding white blooms. These are the kind of plants that make me wonder why anyone would think there’s something shameful about using annuals. I have also noticed that some of the nurseries around here are offering a better selection; even some unusual and quite beautiful impatiens cultivars, if you can imagine such a thing.
I can’t afford to be snobby about annuals, and I see no reason to be. My main problem is there are still some that must be grown from seed and that’s something that, unlike our friend of the GW submission, I don’t do with any kind of ease. But I am hoping to conquer that incompetence soon; some of the plants I’d like to start from seed include nigella, blue woodruff, stock, and sweet peas (though I don’t think these love our summers too well). In the meantime, I’m pleased that seedlings of the more interesting annuals are now more readily available.