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Posts from the ‘annuals’ category

Flanders poppy

Drummond’s Phlox

This lovely little annual phlox has bloomed in my garden from November until April. It is not as showy as the big garden phlox like Phlox paniculata, but I love how little I need to take care of it and how it blooms when not much else is. I’ve often seen it for sale in nurseries in the fall along with other annuals like snapdragons and alyssum, but it’s just as easy to grow from seed and will bloom in fall if you start early enough. (The seed germinates in about 3-5 days if you keep it moist, and often flowers about 7 weeks after sowing.) Read more


The state flower of Texas, and the glory of the spring. No roadside or edge of a ranch, or even small garden like mine feels complete without them. Bluebonnets are diminutive lupines, but look stunning in mass. While they’re the essence of meadow in Texas, they’re also very pretty in carefully arranged garden beds.

Bluebonnets are sown in fall, and occasionally you can find them as nursery-grown annuals, but the seed is so widely available and easy to sow, that it’s worth it to always try some every year. Read more

Sweet Peas

These lovely, childlike highly fragrant flowers have become already one of my garden obsessions. I ordered almost 30 different types of varieties by seed, while really only having room to grow about five. And this was never having seen a sweet pea before. But I am not alone, I have read many stories of other gardeners who fell to the same captivation by sweet peas, after seeing a photo in a catalog or gardening magazine. And I wonder why, for such a delicate flower? Read more


I never thought I’d be a snapdragon fan. As a child I saw them every summer in my grandmother’s garden. They seemed too… familiar. When I first started gardening I was so obsessed with starting native plants that I usually ignored most of the ‘annuals’ table at every gardening center, but then, one autumn while I was looking for some color to fill in bare spots, I visited a gardening store I’d never been to before and they had rows and rows of snapdragons. And to my surprise, they were fragrant, so fruity and sweet. I had never remembered snapdragons as being scented before, and I’m sure some are more so than others.

So I bought a flat of really tall ones, in pretty pinks and deep rich magentas, and planted them informally amongst my roses. Around here snapdragons can bloom all the way through winter if cold doesn’t stick around for long. They dislike our summers, but six months of bloom (from October to March) is not bad at all! Read more

China Pink ‘Victoriana’

I sowed these in early fall of 2007, during a Dianthus craze. I was buying just about any Dianthus seeds I could get my hands on, and during a trip to London I bought a packet of these and one of ‘Ipswich pinks’ from the gift store at Kew Botanical Gardens. China pinks are hybrids of Dianthus chinensis and are very popular as winter bedding annuals in Austin; they can flower from October to sometimes as late as July. In some cases they even struggle through the summer to start blooming all over again in fall.

I have had some China pinks blooming for two years straight, even through summer. Although they are listed as annuals, I would suggest they behave more like a short-lived perennial, and I am even wondering if, by dividing them every so often, I could keep them going even longer. They are a true year-round flower here, and I don’t know why I don’t see more varieties around.

I assumed that my packet of “Victoriana” seeds might grow to look like the kinds I see in the nurseries every year, small cutesy bright red single flowers barely over 10 inches tall. But these are quite different; their taller stems bear larger, sometimes double, deeply fringed blooms in regal jewel tones. They look more like small carnations and make for very pretty bouquets. From a September sowing, I had flowers by Christmas. Needless to say, I will grow this again, and highly recommend them to Texas gardeners looking for another kind of dianthus. Just be sure and get them started in the fall, rather than spring, so they have a chance to show off in winter and get established.

Just one seedling can grow in over a year to make a neat, bushy plant about 2 feet wide and they are lovely if given room to spread. I just love dianthus; they have a way of looking wildflowery and formal at the same time. Unfortunately, many of the China pinks them have almost no scent, including “Victoriana”.

Other varieties worth trying from seed or plants include “Edwardiana”, a related variety, which I can’t wait to try next, and the Elegance series, both of which are available from Thompson and Morgan, an English seed site. I’ve also purchased perennial dianthus seeds from Allwoods in England, one of the oldest dianthus breeders still going. I’ve looked around for seeds in the U.S. but English gardeners just have a lot more choice in pinks. Perhaps they fell out of fashion here at some point.

Although they have survived full sun in my garden, they do struggle if planted late in the spring, and are best with some shade in the afternoon. Most dianthus do well in limey soils, which we have naturally in Austin, and decent drainage.

(Updated on March 30, 2009)

Moss Rose ‘Yubi Summer Joy Pink’

Also called purslane, or its latin name portulaca, Moss Rose is really popular around here as a summer annual. It grows like mad, cares not for overwatering or underwatering, and I’ve had far more success with it than “ice plant”. This plant would root on your finger if you let it, so be careful to dig it out where you don’t want it to spread. It doesn’t matter anyway, since it doesn’t live through the winter.

I bought this particular variety trailing beautifully over a hanging basket one late summer, then brought it indoors, where it promptly dropped all its leaves and with an exception of 2 leaves looked nearly dead. When spring came around I repotted it and sure enough, by summer’s end it was a big ole plant again.

This fall I took about 5 cuttings (just cut a few inches of stem off and stick it in soil and it will grow) and brought them indoors, where I have them under lights (which they didn’t have last winter and what contributed to their leaf-dropping), and I now have about 7 new plants.

The main drawback to this plant is its sort of succulent-looking foliage, which is not a drawback to some but I’m not a huge cactus fan aside from my large flowering prickly pear. This variety has larger, less spiny-looking leaves than most portulaca and so it fits me better. However, the colors are just gorgeous, bright pinks and fuschias that are hard to find and really stand out as filling spaces in a garden, or just in its own pot, which I do.


Otherwise known as Vinca, I happen to like the name “periwinkle”. When searching for some kind of annual flower that would possibly make it through the summer–through heat and drought–there were very few possibilities. The two options pointed out to me at my favorite nursery were zinnias and gomphrenas. I went back a couple weeks later and the tables were scattered with periwinkle, which I had read would take the heat. (The periwinkles in the photo below are from the “Pacifica” series.)

I gathered up a tray full of light pinks, some with lighter centers and others with a bright pink center, and planted them straight away for fear that my mid-May plantings might be a bit late anyway. Thank goodness we’ve had a mild and rainy spring (2007)… it might give them a chance to establish.

I’m still trying to figure out how to fill in my front bed which wraps around our porch. It gets shade almost all morning and into the early afternoon, but especially in mid-to-late summer gets all late afternoon direct sun. A very bad situation for most plants (and people) but thankfully there is a large pecan over this bed which is growing a new big branch that will probably one day shade the bed all day.

Anyhow, I don’t like a lot of annuals… perhaps I’ll change my mind some day. I don’t like petunias or marigolds much. But I do like these periwinkles–they’re dainty, small and delicate. I’m realizing my need for annuals because there are just some places that will always look scanty, especially between seasons.

Update November 2008: The vinca planted in 2007 looked pretty straggly by the end of that summer. Although it rained quite a bit the plants languished in the shade. I’m still on a hunt for good summer annuals, and ones that do fine in shade. That may be a losing battle, and even annuals can be a losing battle in summer, especially after this one, where the only survivor after 3 months of drought and intense heat was the gomphrena.

Scarlet Sage

This native Texas plant came up in an area that I sowed various wildflowers, to see what would happen. It is a fairly shady area, and these were the only flowers that seem to like this kind of shade and moistness. I didn’t do much to the soil, and many flowers sulked at the clay they were thrown in but not this flower.

Update: November 12, 2008. I sowed these indoors of December 2007, and most were up and nearly outgrowing their 4-inch pots by February and by March they were blooming. They are very easy to germinate so I’d suggest if you do sow them indoors, do so a little later in the winter, since they grow fast and are tender to frost. I planted them anyway in March and they bloomed and grew in my front shade bed like crazy.

By the end of the summer Scarlet Sage can look a little ratty and formless but my patch of them was still blooming last week when I pulled them all out to re-do the bed. I still think these behave more like annuals in Austin, because I have yet to see them return in spring but perhaps I haven’t given them a chance as I tend to change my beds around in spring quite a bit. (Mealy blue sage, Salvia farinacea, has suffered the same problem in my hands; after looking scraggly in late fall, I tend to pull them all out.)

Nevertheless, Scarlet Sage blooms happily and fully in full shade all summer long. And that’s a very very rare plant. Having a garden that is almost 80 percent shade with trees and buildings around me, I am constantly having to replace ‘full sun’ plants with something a little more forgiving.

Indian Blanket

Along with bluebonnets, these are the most common flowers along Texas highways and also super easy to start from seed. As I write, in May 2007, the highways are covered with a red and gold blanket. Like most wildflowers, I think these look best en masse. My little wildflower experiments have left me with occasional Indian Blankets here and there and just look weird on their own. They can get quite tall, too, which I didn’t realize until a group of these in one of my beds were almost 3 feet tall before they started forming buds. The tallest is almost 4 feet, up to my chest. I know there are other cultivated varieties of this that are tall and dwarf varieties, but as far as I know, I planted the native Texas seed from Native American Seed.

I just really love them, though. They look tough and they also signal the coming of summer. Whereas in March and April, the cool fields of bluebonnets have the center stage, they are gradually replaced by the warmer tone of Indian Blankets. Rarely have I seen them together except this year for a few short weeks in April they were side by side. Mine, however, didn’t bloom until May, although some started appearing in Austin in early April.