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The Flower Garden

Annuals give life and sparkle to the garden.

Annuals give life and sparkle to the garden.

Many  Southern Hemisphere gardeners are fortunate as the mild climate allows them to have both summer and winter gardens.

Annuals give life and sparkle to the garden, providing a change of scene from season to season and  year to year. It pays handsomely to take pencil to paper and plan the summer and winter bedding schemes before the sowing seasons. Use foliage plants such as euphorbia marginata, ornamental basil and grey leaved plants to tone down and blend bright colours.

For bright contrasting colours annual plants have no match. They can be used in massed beds, for filling in gaps between perennials and shrubs, and for an attractive show of flowers in tubs and hanging baskets. Generally they are economical plants and need only a little time and attention from a gardener before producing results.

Generally annuals are planted twice a year: in autumn to give a floral display through late winter and spring, and in spring to give garden colour in summer and autumn.

There are annuals for almost every situation. Most grow best in sunny spots, but there are some such as cinerarias and primula, that prefer the shade. If you follow the directions on seed packets regarding location and the time to plant, you should not have any trouble.

In the warmer areas of South Africa, a number of very popular annual species are actually sown during winter in warm, sheltered positions in order to provide an earlier and longer show of flowers. Annuals are often classified into two groups, hardy and half-hardy. The hardy annuals are the ones that tolerate cold weather and can be sown earlier.  Of course in warm coastal climates the terms ‘hardy’ and ’half-hardy’ are of little relevance.

SOIL PREPARATION

Good soil preparation will go a long way to preventing problems with annuals. Ideally you should start preparing the soil for annuals a few months before you actually sow the seed. All annuals love well-drained soil, so if you know that your soil is heavy and stays wet for a long time after rain, take steps to improving it before the next sowing / planting season.

Heavy clay soils can be improved by adding lime, or by digging in gypsum at the rate 200g per square metre. Digging in large quantities of well-decayed compost or animal manure will help to improve aeration and drainage of heavy clays.

Very sand soils or soils that dry out rapidly can also be improved by digging in generous amounts of compost. This will help to retain soil moisture and nutrients.

Future features will deal with choosing between seed or seedlings, sowing seed, watering, fertilising and saving seed. Watch the Annuals section (category) on this site where will continually be adding plant profiles, including ideal growing conditions, growing methods, feeding and dealing with anything that could be possibly go wrong.