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If you hurry, there’s still time to plant some hardy annuals like the pansies, snapdragon, and Dianthus transplants above. 

They’ll bloom though spring rain, sleet, and snow; then peak in late May or early June. 

After that you can toss spent plants on the compost pile and use the space for summer flowers.   

It’s crop rotation for flower gardenersHardy annuals are an easy way to bring more blooms into your southern garden and have more than one season of flowers in your beds.

I grow them from transplant.  These came from the awesome Campbell Road Nursery (off Tryon Road in Cary) for just 10 dollars a flat. 

I also grow hardy annuals from seed.  The larkspur above were sown in the fall. 

These baby Nigella were raked in the garden in January.   As the weather warms, they’ll grow like weeds.   Hardy annuals are EASY, which means more newbie gardeners should them a try.   

Annual poppies, and sweet peas can also be grown this way in triangle gardens.  Any other suggestions.  What hardy annuals would you add to the list?

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Lots of shovel action going on in my Apex neighborhood these days–and I’ve done my share of spring planting.  But some of the  best things in my garden right now are the hardy annuals I planted last fall. 

Like these snapdragon–Bought in October at my favorite local plant source, Campbell road nursery, these transplants became very  full and stocky over the winter.  They are at least three times the size of the ones I forgot about, left in the cold frame, and didn’t plant til early March. 

Larkspur blooms coming soon--in front of the old roses

Larkspur is another terrific annual to plant in fall.  I sowed these seeds in October, and I can’t wait for the tall spiky blue blooms that will be coming soon.   It’s one of my favorite flowers and one of the best investments a Southern gardener can make. 

So flip you calendar ahead to September and October and make a note in bold sharpie:  Buy and plant hardy annuals.  Next spring, you’ll be so glad you did.

PS.  Don’t forget the kitchen garden.  We’ve been eating our greens and leeks for about 6 weeks now.  All were set out as transplants last fall and are so much better than what you get in the store.  My purple cabbage is delicious!


In this season of excess–a quick post about the best $1.49 I’ve ever spent. 

Yea, $1.49, mere pocket change for the best spring flower I grow. 

Larkspur is one of the Hardy Annuals, a class of plants that do best in the south when they’re sown in the fall. 

Frosts make these plants, stronger–their long stems stockier.  In May, they bloom in long showy stalks of cool colors. 

June heat completes the cycle.  These cool weather annuals hate high temps.  They go to seed and die.  But they’ll re-seed all over your garden.  Buy them once, and you won’t have buy them again for years. 

Hardy annuals resist transplanting, so rake them in where you want them to grow.  I always get my  the seeds in before Christmas.  Right now,  I’m just waiting for a warm dry day. 

These seeds came from one of my favorite local stores–Stone Brothers and Byrd in Durham.  A great place for gardeners to hang out, they do more than sell the products we need–they give lots of good advice.  I like the newsletter, monthly tips, and I love supporting a store where the people know what they’re doing (and know many of their customers by name)  http://www.stonebrothers.com/

Check out their bulbs and organic products–but I bought the last of their larkspur seed.  Here’s a source for value priced seed and another small family owned business run by passionate gardeners–The Fragrant Path P.O. Box 328 Fort Calhoun, NE 68023 www.fragrantpathseeds.com.   ( I love their dark blue larkspur, pictured below)

Deep Blue Larkspur in my garden last spring from a winter sowing

The minimum order is 5 dollars, so why not try some annual poppies, too.  Money very well spent.   You’ll thank me in the spring.

By the way, I did spend only $ 1.49.  The seed packs are a BOGO special at Stone Brothers–how cool is that!

A friend gave me the seed for this stunning Hardy Annual Poppy--Wow!


Larkspur, yellow snapdragons and white campion bloom in my garden today

The picture says it all–my larkspur is beautiful this year.  Purple-blue and about 4 feet tall, it began with planning, and a packet of seeds sown last fall.  But this hardy annual is short-lived in our southern heat.  By the end of the month–the larkspur, snapdragons, Dianthus, poppies, and pansies that bring so much color to my spring garden will be toast–bloomed out and going to seed.   They’ll go to the compost pile and the garden will need more plants. 

Stunning but short-lived, this pass along poppie grew from seed started in the fall

Cool.  Late May is a great time to plant heat loving annuals like zinnias, cosmos, cleome, celosia and salvia.  With dead-heading, water and fertilizer, these plants will carry the garden into the fall.   It’s a whole new look–hot and tropical to match our summers.  I look forward to the change.  But new plants are expensive.  Already the cheap four-packs of annuals are disappearing from most garden centers–replaced by bigger pots and bigger price tags.  So I’m starting one more  round of seeds. 

Give them time--I expect great things from my latest crop of seeds

Starting them outside in my version of peat pots, newspaper pots.  These bio-degradable containers make for less transplant shock.   And that’s what you want in hot weather–plants that take off and grow fast. 

As always, starting from seed gives me more choices.  I won’t have to take garden-center left overs.   Here’s what I’ve  recently sown for the long, hot summer:  Cleome Violet Queen, Sunflower Vanilla Ice, Love Lies Bleeding, Balsam Impatiens, Melampodium, Zinnia Violet Queen, Celosia Rose Shades and Cosmos Summer dream. 

And yes, I do grown perennials–lots of them.  But nothing gives me more summer blooms than hot weather annuals.   Two I wouldn’t be without–that I just moved to bigger pots today–woodland flowering tobacco and Salvia Van houtti.   Do yourself a favor and check  them both out–


Last week I posted about overwintering spring greens and herbs.   This week some of the special flowers that overwintered in my garden are coming into  bloom.  

Pansies and violas are probably the best known in this group, but there are lots of other winter annuals that don’t make the nursery hit parade.   

Like Sweet Peas:  Melissa must have  a thing about these fragrant, old-fashioned flowers.  “We can’t grow those, can we?” she’s asked me more than once.   

The answer is Yes, we can grow sweet peas— We just can’t grow them like they do in England or Maine, or New Jersey.  Our summers are too hot.   But we can grow sweet peas and other hardy annuals  in a way that I think is even cooler–from seeds sown in the fall. 

Larkspur and poppies are also easy from fall-sown seed.   Just rake them in where you want them to grow.

Check out the  the results in the photo below.   Larkspur is off and growing  really well in my front  flower bed.  You’re looking at more than a dozen plants from a three dollar pack of seeds.  And in a month, I’ll have lost of beautiful blue spikes. 

So what happens when it gets hot?  After the larkspur and poppies bloom, I yank and compost all the plants, then use the space for heat loving annuals like zinnias and saliva.   Just one of the perks of living in the South where we have three growing seasons. 

Here’s a list of some of the hardy annuals I love to grow:

From transplant–

Snapdragon

Dianthus

Pansies

Violas

From Seed–

Larkspur

Shirley and Ca. Poppies

Sweet Peas

People who grow these plants always have lots of seed to spare–so make friends.  Hardy annuals are a fun way to fill a garden without spending a lot of green. 

Any other small investment–big payoff ideas out there? Will trade for seed.

A long-time gardener and a passionate beginner share the dirt on their NC gardens-

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