150 Days of Annuals by Julie Lane-Gay
Last summer I realized my little food garden was looking dull – prolific – but dull. To remedy the tedious rows, I decided to try three uncommon annuals to improve the appearance. To my surprise, they all flowered for five months. These plentiful flowers did so much to spiff up the vegetable garden that this summer, they’ve made their debut in the flowerbeds.
Last summer’s stars started with the Sweet Pea, ‘Matucana’ – I am convinced that these are the easiest, and possibly the most fragrant. These bicolored beauties are maroon and purple, tinged with deep blue. They reach 4-5’ tall and tolerate a bit more shade than the taller ones. I planted them amidst the raspberry canes up a trellis, transforming berry-picking into a fragrant treat. Soak seeds overnight in warm water and pop them right into cell packs – when they are several inches tall, put them in the ground. The more you cut the stems, the longer they will flower.
To liven up the lettuce, kale and spinach, I planted a border of Clary Sage (Salvia viridis), and repeated this around the Sweet 100 Tomatoes. Clary sage’s vividly coloured bracts are superstars. Each about an inch long in deep purple, blue, pink or white, the flowers remind me (and others) of stained glass. I sow Clary Sage in cell packs, barely covering the soil, and leave them in the greenhouse to germinate. You can do this as early as February or as late as May. They’ll germinate within 2 weeks. When seedlings are 4-6”, put them in the ground or along the edge of a pot. Cut the 15” stems frequently (these are exceptional cut flowers) and they’ll flower till November.
My other new favorite was Hummingbird Mint (Agastache). With highly fragrant leaves and tasseled spires in pinks, purples, apricot and white, its flowers are always in bloom. I have grown a number of these ornamental mints, but ‘Fragrant Delight’ worked as an ideal companion the rows of Basil, Oregano and Thyme. I start the seeds in cell packs (germination is reliable which eliminates pricking out) on a bit of bottom heat. You will have flowers about eight weeks later, and then till frost.
For Sweet Pea ‘Matucana’ www.westcoastseeds.com
For Agastache ‘Fragrant Delight,’ www.oscseeds.com or www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com
This list of seed companies covers the US and Canadian companies.