Annual Flowers

In spite of the persistent cold, the annual annual fever is on me: can’t resist mop-headed China asters, tall snapdragons (I love old fashioned black prince, the one with the black green leaves and deep, velvety red flowers), fragrant little yellow Lemon Gem marigolds, cosmos, petunias – and let’s hear a good word for petunias, hey. Not the doubles that look squirted out of a can, like the whipped cream on a cheap sundae, but those like the Wave hybrids that have decently small, simple flowers with some of the old fashioned petunia fragrance but not the old fashioned petunia tendency to collapse utterly at the first raindrop. And…

You know how it goes: take a quick trip to the garden center to get a new pair of gloves or a half-pound of grass seed and the next thing you know you’re wandering down the aisles, drawn by that patchwork carpet of bright colors, each teeny plant in its tiny cell putting out flowers that call, “buy me, buy me, buy ME!”

It can be hard to ignore them, but it’s better to buy the ones that are still more potential than performance, stocky little guys with multiple stems and healthy-looking leaves. And when I say little I do mean little. Best trick is to mutter “roots, roots” while shopping . After all, with constant water and fertilizer an annual can grow 8, 10 inches – a foot and more – tall in a pot the size of an ice cube, but that plant is going to have major adjustment problems when it moves into the garden.

And while we’re on the subject of seedlings, I see to my horror some places are selling baby sunflowers. SUNFLOWERS! There are gazillions of terrific sunflowers – classic yellows with one huge flower, like Russian Giant, not classic dark reds like Velvet Queen, that makes a huge, flower covered bush, and just about everything in between although as yet none are purple ( thank heaven for small mercies).

Point of rant: all of them will make MUCH better plants if you start them from seed. Nasturtiums , too, which are also more and more sold as seedlings but phooey on that, and here are a few more

Things that should be started from seed: poppies, evening-scented stock (Matthiola bicornis) coriander, annual phlox (Phlox drummondii), larkspur, annual lupine, morning glories… I’d say sweet peas , too. But those should be in by now.

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