Annuals: the GWI honor roll

Actually Mr. McGregor Daughter’s meme asks which annuals have failed and which have succeeded so far this summer, but I’ll cheat a bit.

I very rarely have failure with annuals, because I grow them in containers for the most part, and have learned to avoid any that I know won’t succeed (for example, I only tried zinnias once). Also, the summer in Buffalo has been rather rainy and dank, and everything’s getting a slow start, so I’m not quite ready to call anything a failure. (My annuals bloom through mid-October, usually.) Nonetheless, let the judging begin. All these images were taken on 7/21/09.

Lobelia can be fussy, but I’ve learned to give it lots of water and it is never baked in full sun in my garden. This true blue flower is irresistible, and if it’s common, you can sure see why. And here’s a clichéd combo for you: lobelia and diascia, which might like a little bit more sun than it’s getting.

Foliage annuals tend to do really well in part shade. For eight years, strobilanthes (Persian Shield) has been getting comments during Garden Walk; here it is with some coleus and Mojito colocasia.

I’ve never understood why people hate pelargoniums. They’re great plants, endure a lot of neglect, and the foliage is wonderful This is Fair Ellen from Select Seeds.

Nicotiana are fabulous plants, especially the traditional varieties which have stature and fragrance. I also have some sylvestris, not shown here.

Again, here’s a much-abused plant that has been greatly improved, but was always useful in shade. These are the Fusion impatiens, with some Blackie ipomoea.

At the very top, you see a wall planter I just filled with some lantana, which I have been using a lot lately. I find that the orange and red varieties have the most longevity for me. The tried and true annuals always work the best, as far as I’m concerned. However, there are some annuals I haven’t exactly failed with but that I dislike to various degrees:
Dusty miller (so, so sad)
Marigolds (meh)
Celosia (the worst!)

Here are some I’ve tried to grow and never did well with:
Sweet peas

But I do have one true failure. Year after year, I can’t get torenia to work, though I really like it. Strange.


Carol Michel said…
You've only tried zinnia once? What? I have to grow zinnias every year! Big ones that I can cut and bring inside. And I have to grow sweet peas, even if I get only one bloom, so I can smell it in the spring.

But too each her own and I know you don't have much sun. I envy you your shade!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens
Judith said…
Cosmo's???? WOW! one plant that goes directly from seed here...I plant them in mass's. Neve have trouble with them! I could put the seeds on pavement and they would grow here in NJ. (that actually happened with some wayward seeds)
I grow many of these same annuals in my shade semi-shade garden. I can grow the torenias too. I just have to water them daily.
Rose said…
We do have quite a few in common, Elizabeth--the Persian Shield is one of my favorites for foliage in containers. And every year I plant pelargoniums, petunias, and impatiens. There's a reason they're favorites with so many! You've reminded me of the one annual I should have included as a failure for me--lobelia. Every year I can't resist buying some, and every year I manage to kill it within two weeks. "Lots of water and never baked in full sun"--I will have to remember that and give it another try next year.
Thanks for joining in! Some things are cliches because they are so good. I prefer to call Lobelias & Diascias a "classic" combination. Strobilanthes is one of those plants I keep meaning to try. Next year I'm definitely planting it. And don't feel bad about not having success with Torenia. I can't grow it either, despite several attempts.
Unknown said…
I grew some pink impatiens from seed and they are lovely. I think I'm going to have to try some coleus and those pelargoniums, and nicotiana, and...
Cindy, MCOK said…
I'm really disappointed in my Persian Shields. I planted them in the ground, expecting them to take off and be huge by now. It hasn't happened. Maybe they prefer containers. Sigh.

Cosmos seem to do best if they're direct sown into fairly lean soil. I had a spectacular stand of them several years back in such a situation. I scattered at least 3 packets of seeds this year in several areas and have only seen 1 or 2 seedlings. Bright Lights Cosmos, however, reseed with abandon. I can share seeds of those if you want to try them.
Claudia said…
On Sunday, I have to be somewhere other then your party. To say I'd much rather be looking at gardens, is an understatement. Thanks!
~~Rhonda said…
Your annuals are looking great. I don't have many myself, though each year I intend to get started with them. I adore zinnias and petunias. Why aren't there any in my yard??

Isn't it odd how some things grow by leaps and bounds for one gardener and sulk or totally fail for another? Perennials do great in my yard, though I cannot for the life of me raise chrysanthemums. Why is that?? Non-gardeners around me, some without any other garden plant in the yard, have the most amazing mums every fall. I have failed each time I've tried them.

Have fun at the garden walk this weekend. I know how busy, busy, busy you are right now. BTDT. But remind yourself to relax during the tour. Have fun chatting with all those garden buddies!

niartist said…
Oh so true. I've had horrible luck with almost every annual I planted, including the dreaded marigolds that I thought would deter the bugs - they were the first things that died! I too have issues with celosia. I've found celosia to look great minutes after planting, but within a week, (if they've grown) they look leggy and bare. Great post. Learning tons here.
EAL said…
MCOK, cosmos need full sun, end of story. I can't give them that. Zinnias the same.

But Persian Shield does seem to enjoy a bit of cool shade.
Pam said…
Yay nicotiana! I think it's just a great annual, and down my way (zone 8b) it often reseeds. Dreamy.

My brother (from Vermont) called today and he is just now harvesting his spring peas. Today, with only a week of July left.

I grew a nice celosia once (don't cringe) - I got the seeds through Monticello's garden site. They weren't an unusual variety - but ended up being surprisingly nice. They reseeded for a few years - but I forgot to collect their seed and lost it.
Kim said…
I'm so happy to hear someone else can't succeed with torenia and celosia. My torenia rots, whether I water it or let it dry out. I do great with zinnias, but I plant them in the garden with the tomatoes and marigolds (only the Lemon and Tangerine Gems, please). And cosmos? Why do those 18-28 inch ones always get over 6 feet tall and then flop over? No more cosmos for me!

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