Flowers mark the start of spring
Spring has arrived in my backyard. I have cleaned up my collection of black seed trays and begun sowing hundreds of annuals for my picking garden.
It is the same each year. When the weather warms up, my picking garden becomes overrun with all manner of annuals - flowers with long stems and longlasting blooms, and some with a sweet or spicy scent.
Because annuals flower so easily and prolifically, they are the mainstay of my picking garden. The whole purpose of an annual is to produce seeds so that the plant lives more than its allotted year.
So long as you keep picking (or deadheading) them, most annuals will keep on churning out flowers because they are still on a mission to produce seeds. It’s a neat system, really. The more flowers you pick, the more flowers they produce.
Some of the easiest annuals to grow are cosmos, calendula, sunflowers, snapdragons and zinnias, but there are a number of oddball annuals that are both intriguing and easy care.
In my picking garden I grow spider flower (Cleome spinosa), starball scabiosa (Scabiosa stellata), green love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus "Viridus") and the climbing hyacinth bean vine (Dolichos lablab) - all strangely beautiful and a snip to grow. But I also grow old favourites like cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus), bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis), lovein-a-mist (Nigella damascena) and China asters (Callistephus chinensis). All last well in the vase, and all are easy to grow.
I grow a selection of bulbs and tuberous perennials, too. Some of the longest-lasting cut flowers come from this group, including calla lilies, liliums and chincherinchee (Ornithogalum thyrsoides). The latter can last up to four weeks in a vase, and calla lilies and lilium 2-3 weeks.
There is probably a colour here to suit all tastes.
Many perennials also make fine cut flowers.
They may not flower right throughout the growing season as many annuals do, but plant size and number of blooms increases each year.
Cosmos are among some of the easiest annuals to grow.