Hardy annuals simplified

Fancy some colour in the garden this season? Follow Michael Perry’s advice. Here he takes the pain out of growing plants from seed.

Nasturtium
Nasturtium. Image: Michael Perry
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Growing some plants is actually very easy. Have you heard of hardy annuals? They are so easy to grow, it should be made criminal not to so. Throw and sow, that’s all you do!

So, why have they grown out of favour? Well, it seems some of the newer, flashy bedding specimens have rather overshadowed them in recent years. The super cheap price of hardy annual seeds also means that marketing companies don’t push them in front of you as much as they might a more expensive cutting-raised plug plant.

It’s time to break the silence, and to let them blossom!

Eschscholzia
Eschscholzia. Image: Michael Perry

Quick and easy

Hardy annuals aren’t only easy but they are quick too. From seed to flower in just 8 weeks, in some cases. They are perfect for every type of gardener too; impatient, last minute, inexperienced, those with a lack of funds, the list goes on..

A few sneaky tips for using hardy annuals include scattering the seed amongst your freshly planted perennials and shrubs. Why? Because we all know that feeling of waiting for your shrubs to fill out; well you can be more patient if your hardy annuals fill the gaps in the meantime.

The hardy annuals will also self-seed themselves, but, only if you want them to. Once ripe, the seeds will simply fall to the ground and will germinate and give you exactly the same display the next year. That’s exceptional value, especially when you consider that a single seed packet can cost just a couple of pounds.

nigella
Nigella. Image: Michael Perry

Five hardy annuals to try

  1. Nigella. This is an elegant annual with a real presence in the border. Not only do the flowers look dashing, but so do the spherical seedpods. Nigella colours tend to come in blue or pink or white, blending well with pastel and primary colours.
  1. Hibiscus manihot. You might be surprised to see a Hibiscus on the list, but this beauty is easy to grow in the ‘throw and sow’ manner. The moonlit shades of the flower are just divine too.
  1. Eschscholzia (Californian Poppy). Chosen because it’s a drought tolerant little gem, with a nice, useful sprawling habit, for covering dry sunny banks and other problem spots. Don’t just assume all varieties are bright orange either, recent plant breeding means we now have the silky specimens with softer tones such as beautiful pink shades of Eschscholzia ‘Rose Chiffon’.
  1. Nasturtium. Here’s a plant where you can eat almost every part of it, and the flavour of the parts can range from slightly spicy to super peppery. Jazz up summer salads (and show off to your friends!) with it. Outdoors, the nasturtium can brighten up vegetable plots (and attract useful pollinators), or be sown directly into patio pots, beds and borders, and even hanging baskets.

    sunflower
    Sunflower. Image: Michael Perry
  1. Sunflowers. Sunflowers can be ‘direct sown’ outdoors! You need to realise that there aren’t just big yellow ones these days either, the pink, red and orange ones are set to blow your minds. How about re-enacting the Van Gogh painting with your own vase of home-grown beauties?
Michael Perry

About Michael Perry

Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan. Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media - so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook.
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