10 less common annuals
by Dorothy Dobbie
There are gardeners who would rather die than be seen with common annuals like impatiens or petunias in their yards, but what else provides so much colour and versatility?
Of course there are the even more common geraniums, pansies, snapdragons and cosmos – “granny flowers”, my forty-something daughter Lori calls them.
If you’re tired of the traditional, you need only head to the garden centres. They’re offering enough knock-yoursocks-off plants to have the neighbours oooh-ing and aaah-ing in a chorus of congratulations. A number-one choice is lisianthus
(Eustoma grandiflorum), a biennial or short-lived perennial member of the gentian family that is mostly grown as an annual here. If you want a showy, rose-like blossom on a herbaceous plant, then you can’t go wrong with this beauty. It blooms best later in the season and will keep it up until frost with several blossoms on each bluegreen stem decorated with well behaved leaves. There are both long-stemmed and dwarf varieties and they grow well in the garden and in containers.
Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’ is a perennial in Zones 7 to 8, but can be used as an annual. Also called mealy cup sage, its stems and leaves are a lovely grey-blue that support spires of pale to dark blue all summer. It particularly loves the later months from August and onwards. Its tall form makes an ideal centre in a mixed container.
Brachycome or Swan River daisy puts out masses of delicate, daisylike flowers in blues, mauves and whites from ferny foliage. Growing to a height of only 10 inches, this pretty plant loves well drained soil in direct sunlight. It does very well in containers. Go bananas for a tropical look. Ornamental bananas (Musa enseta) are fabulously easy to grow large-leafed plants that add a special zing to a sophisticated patio. Really a perennial that will grow to 20 feet in a solarium, this banana plant will reach two to three feet in one season to make an exotic statement in a planter. It’s happy in sun to light shade and will easily overwinter in a bright room.
Brachycome (swan river daisy).