The ten annuals we will always growOn July 31, 2023 by Three Brothers Blooms
One of my favorite things about growing flowers is the planning. The process feels limitless, full of hope and opportunity, and it inspires me to push my imagination and creativity even further than I did the season previous. Our little farm has evolved substantially over the past few years, specifically to include more perennials and less annuals. We have trialed countless flowers and let go of many that, although incredibly beautiful, take far more work and energy than they yield in profit and use-ability. Based on our own goals, growing limitations, and current business plan, these are the ten annuals that have proven through their own meritorious efforts that they should always be grown on our little farm. I hope there is at least one that is new to you and that you willing to give it a go in your own garden.
Pansies/Violas (Viola × wittrockiana, Viola cornuta)
Although pansies can be grown as perennials where we live, they are more often grown as annuals. I really enjoy starting them from seed each season, and by mid summer the stems are long enough to begin using them in arrangements. We are growing over eighty varieties right now as part of our extensive trials and they have become my true favorite flower. They bloom all summer in full sun and can withstand even the harshest frost. I’ve had many varieties overwinter and they are also prolific self-seeders. Nothing compares to a vase full of pansies with their lovely greenery contrasting to the vast colors and patterns of their petals. If you’ve never grown them for cutting, you are missing out on their greatest attribute.
Phlox (Phlox drummondii)
While perennial phlox is very popular in gardens and landscapes, it’s annual phlox that I prefer for cutting and bouquet work. We have grown many different varieties of annual phlox in seasons past. In addition to being a cut-and-come-again annual, the fragrance is absolute heaven and a large bed of annual phlox is unimaginably enchanting. The seed is not difficult to collect and I have had great success regrowing it from my own stock year after year. Pictured is a mix of the three varieties we currently grow, Cherry Caramel, Crème Brûlée and Dulce de Leche.
Sweet Sultan (Centaurea imperialis)
There is nothing not to love about this flower. A member of the Asteraceae family, the stems are long, clean and straight and the flowers begin like a thistle before opening into full feathery blooms. They produce abundantly throughout the summer, the seed is incredibly easy to collect, and best of all, I think it smells like chocolate and honey. If you have never grown it, I definitely recommend giving it a try. Although it comes in several shades, we prefer all white for this one.
Strawflower (Bracteantha bracteata)
It’s only within the past couple years that I really fell in love with Strawflower. We grow it in several shades to include apricot, pink, white and deep burgundy. It is one of the best flowers for drying but I love tucking it into bouquets all summer while it is freshly blooming.
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus)
These charming flowers carry a great deal of nostalgia for so many people. We have tried a couple dozen varieties but our favorites are the Potomac series and the Madame Butterfly series. These are not only the most beautiful in our opinion, but they are great producers and smell like they are made of candy.
Amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus)
While amaranth seed is prized for its nutritional value and health benefits, it’s the flowers that have ensnared me. Long cascades that look like they were grown in the garden of a secret cottage that resides just north of a forest mentioned halfway through the third chapter of a fairytale. We grow four different colors, but the green is my favorite. Amaranth is also beautiful dried and I grow extra stock each year so that I can drape it throughout my home.
Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus)
Another highly nostalgic flower, sweet peas are well known for the unique and incredible fragrance. Easy to grow, they will keep blooming as long as you keep cutting and the seed is also very easy to collect. We keep our seed in the freezer, where it stays fresh for years. We have found they do best with a bit of shade from the afternoon scorch and we’ve seen great success with both fall and early spring planting. My personal favorite is ‘Blue Shift‘.
Zinnias (Zinnia elegans)
There is so much to love about zinnias. The more you cut the more they bloom, and there are several varieties that are exceptional as cut flowers. There are some really exciting things happening with breeding right now by some incredible growers, so I am hopeful the varieties are going to keep getting better and better. Our favorites at this time are the Queen Lime series.
Starflower (Scabiosa stellata)
This flower has two lives. The first as dozens of tiny white flowers cluster together in the center surrounded by a halo of pale lavender petals. In the second, it transforms into a small globe with perfect dark stars at the center of each and every facet. The star filled flowers dry impeccably, making them great for floral work within fresh bouquets as well as dried wreaths and arrangements.
Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella papillosa)
This is the epitome of a fairy flower. It is delicate and wispy and absolutely marvelous in every way. There are several varieties and we’ve grown quite a few but my favorite is definitely ‘Albion Green Pod’. It is hardy and a prolific bloomer and I just love the touch of magic it adds everywhere that it grows.
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