How to - Seeds

Easy annuals to grow from seed

Scatter seeds over blank spots in the garden for summer flowers.

Generous pot marigolds
Few annuals are as generous with flowers as pot marigolds, or calendulas. The Latin name comes from the same root as calendar, suggesting that this bright-eyed thing may bloom year-round in mild climates. From a mid-May sowing in our Zone 4 garden, July to November is more like it. Rough-edged and crescent-shaped, pot marigold seeds sprout in a week or two; within 60 days, cheerful, daisy-like flowers open in fruit-bowl colours of orange, apricot, peach and lemon. ‘Touch of Red Mixed' offers bicolour blooms, the tips of their petals prettily brushed with red. Long-stemmed (45 cm) ‘Pacific Beauty', in mixed or single colours, are elegant in beds and bouquets, while some sites call for shorter (30 cm) cultivars, such as Fiesta Gitana Group ‘Bon Bon', ‘Apricots and Oranges' or ‘Daisy May Gold'. All thrive in the sun in any soil except dense, wet clay. Thinned to 15 centimetres apart, they branch out and bloom on.

Cottagey blooms
Under the heading Centaurea cyanus, you'll find well-known bright blue cornflower, or bachelor's buttons. Also worth growing is pretty sweet sultan, a seldom-seen, sun-loving annual that tops its 75-centimetre stems with chocolate-scented, thistle-like flowers of mauve, lilac, yellow or white. Both plants prefer light, lean, well-drained soil.

Excellent in arrangements, these simple, cottagey flowers can be sown in rows or at the ends of beds in the vegetable garden. For edging, window boxes or a rock garden, choose low-growing (30 cm) cornflowers from the Dwarf Midget Series, available in blue, mauve, red, pink and white, or from the Florence Series, which bloom in cherry red, pink or white (the exception being the cultivar ‘Jubilee Gem', which is a rich blue). Both sweet sultan and cornflowers attract butterflies.

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