Situations and Soils - The Time to Sow - How to Sow Out of Doors - Thinning the Seedlings - Birds and Insect Pests - Watering and Staking - The Flowering Season - Arrangement of Colours Good Annuals to Grow
"The choicer kinds of hardy annuals may fitly find a place in the mixed herbaceous border, where they can be employed to fill spaces between permanent plants, as, for instance, where early bulbs have finished flowering. Hardy annuals and biennials can also be sown in beds reserved especially for cutting purposes. In country gardens the edges of kitchen garden plots are often made to look delightful in this way. There can also be a mixed border of annual flowers only, where space allows, and this shows the flowers to great advantage. Such a border may be seen to perfection at Kew Gardens
Copyright Photo: J. Murray & Sous during the summer months.
Any border which can command a fairly sunny and open situation is suitable for growing annuals and bien-nials. In the matter of soil, the plants are worthy of more generous treatment than usually falls to their lot. Where-ever possible, therefore, the ground should be deeply trenched and manured a short time previously.
The Time to Sow
From the middle of March to the middle of April is the best time for sowing annuals out of doors. Autumn sowing of annuals is only recommended in a warm, light soil, and is not usually worth attempting in town gardens. Autumn-sown annuals have the advantage of blooming early, and can thus be replaced later by such plants as dahlias, etc.
Spring-sown annuals are often late in beginning to flower, but will consequently continue in bloom until quite late in the season. Those raised under glass, of course, flower earlier. A sowing of hardy annuals for succession and of half-hardy annuals, if desired, can be made out of doors in May or June.
Cyanus, or cornflower, one of the best hardy annuals of medium height
Biennial plants are best sown in June, then pricked out, and either planted at once where they are to flower or put into nursery quarters for the winter. They must be raised very early in the year, usually under glass, if required to bloom in the same season.
How to Sow out of Doors
The ground first should be deeply stirred, and the top-soil should then be carefully raked, removing all rough stones, etc., the object being to obtain as smooth, fine, and even a surface as may be.
Sow the seeds on a fairly still day, scattering them as thinly as possible, and barely covering them with soil. Exceptions to this rule are such seeds as the nasturtiums and sweet-peas, which should be covered an inch deep, making the holes, two inches or so apart, with a wooden dibber. Very minute seeds, such as Shirley poppy, may be mixed with three times their bulk of sand, in order to ensure better distribution. Do not water the seed-plots after sowing if you can avoid so doing. It should never be necessary to do so in the spring or autumn. If birds are seen to attack any seeds, a network of black cotton may be stretched across the plot on small sticks. This must be done for sweet-peas, in any case, for as soon as the young plants appear, the birds are apt to "top" them unmercifully. Coating sweet-peas with red lead and paraffin - by dipping them first in the oil and then rolling them in the lead- - will prevent mice and birds from attacking the actual seeds in the ground. Thinning Seedlings
Rigorous thinning out must begin as soon as the seedlings are large enough to be handled. They must be pulled out by degrees, but, when thinning is completed, each plant should have plenty of space to attain its full size. This is a most important point, as only a weak and spindly growth can result if courage is not found to throw away literally handfuls of the young plants where these have come up thickly.
Such plants as mallow, godetia, candytuft, and dwarf coreopsis should be allowed a distance apart equal to at least half their height when fully grown. In thinning out seedlings, the sturdiest can be set out in groups and the rest thrown away. Shirley poppies and other annuals which have a taproot will not, as a rule, transplant satisfactorily. The accompanying diagram shows the correct method of setting out a group of plants.
Slugs and snails will usually assist in the process of thinning, but must be kept at bay as far as possible by putting down saucers of bran moistened with vinegar. These traps should be examined each night, between II and 12 o'clock, if possible, and the slugs, etc., be emptied into a pail of brine. Powdered alum is a substance which with advantage may be lightly forked among the plants as a preventive.
The ground between the plants must be kept well loosened with a fork or hoe, and all weeds removed. If this is done, less watering in dry weather will be needed, as the operation allows air and moisture to penetrate to the roots.
Always stir over the soil beforehand when watering is necessary, and use a fine-rosed can. It is best to water either in the early morning or in the evening.
Some twiggy branches of hazel or birch may be stuck firmly among the groups of flowers if staking is necessary. Here and there the sticks may be secured with bast, but the aim must be to show as little in the way of supports as possible.
Sweet-peas are usually staked with brushwood six or eight feet in height. The neatest method is to place three stakes so as to form a kind of cage, securing it in two or three places with tarred twine, and cutting off the tops level. The stakes are, of course, placed on the inner side of the plants. Galvanised wire netting and special sweet-pea supports are also used.
The Flowering: Season
A very important point in successful culture is constantly to remove flowers as they begin to go off, and thus prevent seeding. Indeed, the best plan is to anticipate this altogether by picking the flowers constantly and using them for indoor decoration.
It is a pleasant characteristic of most flowers that the more one picks the more one may, while to neglect the duty will bring the season of annuals, and notably that of the sweet-pea, to an untimely end.
As regards colour schemes, every possessor of a garden will like to plan her own, so that the barest suggestions only need be given here. A complete border of annuals gives opportunity for working out charming ideas, and beautiful harmonies or contrasts may also be obtained by the judicious use of annuals in herbaceous borders. Bold grouping should be the method employed in every case.
Sulphur-coloured sunflowers make a good foil to blue larkspur; Mallow (Pink Domino) and Clarkia. Salmon queen should be sown near to masses of some white flower. Love-in-a-mist or, again, the Swan River daisy, look well in the neighbourhood of yellow Oenotheras.
Deep yellow tints are good to combine with crimson or white, or to use with an edging of some mauve subject, such as the rock cress, with perhaps a touch of white as a relief.
Scarlet tropaeolums form a useful background to paler tinted flowers, and the crimson foliage of prince's feather should be employed for the same purpose, with bronze-leaved perilla nearer the edge. In conclusion, a word should be said for ornamental grasses and the "gipsy" of flower-sellers, which seem specially designed for decorative arrangement with annual flowers, indoors as well as out.
Some Good Kinds of Annuals to Grow
The following is a list of about three dozen of the best hardy annuals:
Plants of medium height: Cornflower, Shirley poppy, sweet, sultan, double Clarkia, Mallow (Pink Domino and White Lady), love-in-a-mist (Miss Jckyll), godetia (Duchess of Albany, Duchess of Albemarle, and The Bride), eschscholtzia coreopsis, annual chrysanthemum, sunflower, tropaeolum, prince's feather, gypsophila elegans, and sweet-peas (tall).
Dwarf plants: Candytuft (white spiral), mignonette (machet and pyramidal), god' (bijou), Limnanthes Douglasii, Collinsia bicolor, scarlet flax, and night-scented stock.
Plants for edging and carpeting: Alyssum Snow Carpet, notana, rock cress, nemophila, leptosiphon, leptosyne, kaulfussia, dwarf nasturtiums, and Virginia stock.
A diagram showing the method of grouping plants in the border