This section is from the book "Beautiful Gardens - How To Make Them And Maintain Them", by Walter P. Wright. Also available from Amazon: Beautiful Gardens: How To Make And Maintain Them.
To such an extent have many people carried the rage for hardy perennials that any ugly weed is grown by them so long as it comes within the pale. Conversely, a large number of really beautiful garden plants are neglected because (1) they are annuals, (2) they are cheap. Let the perennial fanatic tell us, if he can, of a more beautiful plant than the double variety of Clarkia elegans, or Phacelia campanularia, or the Scarlet Flax, or any well-known Godetia, or the Rose Mallow, or Sweet Pea. Let him name a more brilliant flower than the Shirley Poppy, a more fragrant one than the Sweet Sultan.
It is silly beyond measure to look on annuals as though they were some low order of vegetable life. The soft cushions of tender blue which Nemophila insignis forms on the rockery in spring are not less pleasing because they have come from a penny packet of seed sown the previous September. The truth is that there are a great many flowers of annual duration, which will enliven the beds, borders, and rockeries for many weeks together, that can be bought for the price of a morning paper. If they do not give satisfaction in some cases it is because they are grown as carelessly as a field Turnip - nay, more so, for the average farmer at least has sense enough to practise thin seeding, and subsequent "singling."
Annuals make very pretty groups in beds and borders, and remain in beauty for as long a period as most perennials, if they are thinly seeded, and well singled out afterwards. A man would not attempt to cram a dozen Rose bushes on to one square foot of ground, and he should not work on the ridiculous assumption that an annual is so different in construction from other plants that it will thrive when crowded at the rate of a hundred plants to the square inch.
The flowers named in the following paragraphs are all hardy, and suitable for sowing in the open towards the end of March or early in April. They are all cheap. They are all good enough in every way to make (according to height) edgings, clumps, or groups. It is the rule of all seedsmen to give the colour and height on the packets.
One of the few yellow annuals is Bartonia aurea, a good plant, of which a dwarf form called nana is now available. The Candytufts give us several colours, of which the most useful are crimson and white. Amongst the Chrysanthe mums we find two beautiful varieties of coron arium in W. E. Gladstone and Lord Beaconsfield; and a most valuable variety of segetum in Morning Star. These are all grand for cutting. With its tall, arching stems, furnished from top to bottom with double pink flowers, Clarkia elegans flore pleno presents itself as one of the most valuable of garden flowers. It has several very pretty single sisters. Collinsia bicolor, though less striking, is a good annual, with blue and white flowers.
Convolvuluses, Cornflowers, and Coreopsises are too well known to need more than mere inclusion. We get useful orange annuals in Erysimum Peroffskianum and Eschscholtzia Californica, both of which are worth growing, the latter in particular - it is sometimes biennial. Eschscholtzia Mandarin is also an excellent plant. Eutoca viscida is not of such good habit as some annuals, but its fine blue tint is very welcome. The Gilias and Leptosiphons are closely related. Of the plants grown under the former name tricolor should be chosen; and of the latter densiflorus albus.
The Godetias are magnificent annuals - perhaps the most valuable grown, for they combine compact habit (when thinly sown) with large flowers, bright colours, and remarkable duration. Duchess of Albany, white; Lady Albemarle, carmine; Whitneyi fulgida, crimson scarlet, white centre; and Lady Satin Rose, pink, should be chosen. Gypsophila elegans, which is sometimes perennial, is useful for cutting. A very dainty little carpeting annual, growing only a couple of inches high, is Ionopsidium acaule, which quite covers the ground with its blossoms.
An entirely distinct annual, valuable for its soft green, fleecy, fern-like foliage, which turns deep crimson in autumn, is Kochia scoparia. The Larkspurs are worth growing. The Rose Mallows are represented best by the two beautiful plants grown under the names of Lavatera splendens rosea and alba, varieties of L. trimestris. They are splendid annuals, even if inclined to straggle. Limnanthes Douglasii is a dwarf yellow and white flower, good both for autumn and spring. The Scarlet Flax, Linum grandiflorum rubrum, is very brilliant.
Fig. A splendid clump of Mallow (Lavatera).
Of the popular Lupins, nanus (also its white variety) and subcarnosus should be included. Lovers of sweet flowers will not forget Mignonette, but they may the Night-scented Stock, Matthiola bicornis, which, commonplace in appearance - especially by day, when it looks a mere weed - at night is deliciously perfumed. It should be sown near a door or window, in an inconspicuous place. Mignonette, easily grown as a rule, fails to thrive in some places, and a dressing of mortar rubbish, or lime, should then be tried.
The Nasturtiums (Tropaeolums of the botanists) may be grown, under restrictions. Unless kept in check they will overrun the garden, and, seeding themselves, become an intolerable nuisance year after year. Empress of India, crimson, is one of the best of the dwarfs, and Sunlight, pale yellow, of the taller sorts. The newer Ivy-leaved Nasturtiums which are now to be obtained from some of the larger seedsmen are good plants.
The Nemesias and Nemophilas are useful, and so is the Love in a Mist (Nigella). Phacelia cam-panularia should have special attention, as giving a valuable colour (dark blue) with dwarf and compact habit. It is one of the best annuals we have. Poppies have been greatly improved of recent years, and the popular "Shirleys" must be grown. It is true that they are somewhat fugitive, but they make beautiful, shimmering breaks of colour when grown in a mass. Saponaria Calabrica and Silene pendula compacta give us low, pink cushions in spring if sown in late summer, and are very gay and sparkling. Scabiouses should be grown for their fragrance, and so should the dwarf, white, little-known annual called Schizopetalon Walkeri, which is piquantly perfumed. Of the Sweet Sultans the yellow is the sweetest.
There are one or two annual Sunflowers well worthy of inclusion, notably that called Helianthus cucumerifolius and its variety Stella.
Fig. Suggestions For Pretty Borders. A, B, C, ideas for borders of annual flowers. D, a suggestion for a border of bulbs.
The Sweet Peas have now become a florist's flower almost as important as the Carnation. A large supply of these lovely flowers should be grown, as they are so serviceable for cutting. An early bloom is often secured by sowing in autumn, but those who want plants of great vigour, qualified to produce large, long-stemmed flowers in abundance for many successive weeks, should trench and manure the ground in winter, and put out plants 6 inches apart in April that have been raised in pots in a frame. Stronger plants are thus secured, and losses from vermin and slugs greatly reduced. A representative collection should include the following varieties: Dorothy Eckford, white; Hon. Mrs. Kenyon, cream; Countess Spencer, pink; Mrs. Hard-castle Sykes, blush; John Ingman, carmine; Helen Pierce, blue; Mrs. Walter Wright, mauve; Queen Alexandra, scarlet; Miss Willmott, orange; Bolton's Pink, pink; Lady Grisel Hamilton, light blue; Black Knight, maroon; Coccinea, cerise; David R. Williamson, indigo blue; Agnes Johnston, rose and cream; King Edward VII., crimson; Romolo Piazzani, violet blue; Henry Eckford, orange salmon; Unique, blue and white; and Triumph, orange. Others can be added according to taste.
Virginian Stocks, and the brilliant Viscarias, may conclude the list of popular annuals. Others not so well known, but certainly worth growing, are Eucharidium grandiflorum, Glaucium tricolor,
Kaulfussia amelloides, Lasthenia Californica, Linaria bipartita, Malope grandiflora, Omphalodes linifolia, Oxyura chrysanthemoides, Papaver glaucium (a fine Poppy), Platystemon Californiens, and Sanvitalia procumbens, double variety.
It may be well to mention that such half-hardy annuals as Phlox Drummondii, Ten-week Stocks, and Asters may be treated as hardy by sowing them in April, but they are best raised under glass.
A chapter on cheap flowers would be very incomplete if it did not make mention of such valuable plants as Wallflowers, Sweet Williams, Foxgloves, Canterbury Bells, Indian Pinks, Brompton Stocks, and Sweet Rockets, which are generally treated as biennials - that is, sown in late spring or early summer, flowered the following year, and then thrown away. The seedsmen now sell fine, selected strains of these popular flowers, and most valuable they are where much space has to be filled cheaply, for they can be raised in thousands from seed costing only a shilling or two. Late and thick sowing is the great mistake with these plants. They should be sown in May, and put out in lines some 6 or 8 inches apart in July; they then become sturdy, and make grand plants for putting out in autumn.