Annuals And Biennials For Cutting

Many annuals make excellent cut flowers and indeed constant picking — by preventing seeding — prolongs the life and vigour of some, such as sweet peas. For the rest, in order not to denude borders of bloom, it may be advisable to grow these in reserved beds away from general view. Make the beds long and narrow (not more than 3 ft. wide), so that picking can take place in all weathers without treading all over the soil.


Agrostemma githago is the corn cockle, a beautiful hardy annual with large, five-petalled magenta flowers (pale lilac in the variety Milas), 2 to 3 in. across on 2 to 3-ft. Stems. The long narrow leaves are greyish. The plant is also useful for pot culture or in borders.


Amaranthus are esteemed for their foliage as well as their striking inflorescences.


Amaranthus caudatus or love-lies-bleeding takes its name from the long drooping spikes of flowers which may be blood red, white or green. When these are stripped of their leaves they make interesting cut flowers. The plants grow 2 to 5 ft. according to conditions, although rich soil tends to make them top heavy and coarse. A. hybridus (often listed in catalogues as A. hypochondriacus) is known as prince’s feather on account of the colourful greenish-red leaves and spikes of blood-red flowers. The 18-in. A. tricolor or Joseph’s coat is the best for foliage, however, this being strikingly patterned in scarlet, yellow and bronze green. All the family need sun and should be treated as half-hardy annuals.


Callistephus chinensis is the China aster, a favourite for cutting but also useful in borders. There is a wide range of types, all of which should be grown in an open sunny position in good soil and treated as half-hardy annuals. Pompon Mixed has button-like daisies in shades of purple, blue, mauve, red, pink and white — also some bicolours, all 18 in. high; Dwarf Queen is a race of small (9 in.) double bedding kinds; Totem Pole has large shaggy flowers 6 to 7 in. across, 2 ft.; the Single Flowered are naturally all singles, on 21-ft. Stems, and Californian Giant produces huge shaggy blooms on 2 to 3-ft. Stems in various colours. A virus disease (spotted wilt) sometimes attacks and kills aster plants. Buying seed from reliable sources and not too much warmth in the early stages of growth are the best preventatives.


Centaurea cyanus is the cornflower, a pretty little blue-flowered annual with small thistle-like heads of flowers on branching, 21-ft. Stems. There are also pinks and whites and dwarf forms. This is essentially a flower for cutting since dead blooms remain on the stems, which spoils them for border work. Sow the seed in autumn on light soil and in spring thin the plants to 12 or 18 in. apart.


Annual chrysanthemums make ideal cut flowers and come in self-colours of white, cream and yellow and also with contrasting bands around the petals or different centres. They are derived from such species as Chrysanthemum coronarium, C. carinatum and C. segetum. The usual height is between 1 and 2 ft. and the plants should be treated as hardy annuals.

Germination takes place in eight days. Grow them in an open sunny position and good but well-drained soil. C. frutescens, the white marguerite, a popular long flowering bedding plant should be treated as half hardy. It has branching 2-ft. Stems with deeply cut leaves and many golden-centred, white flowers. There is also a yellow called Comtesse de Chambord and a pink, Mary Wootton.


Clarkia elegans (more correctly C. unguiculata) is a branching hardy annual from California which will grow 1 to 3 ft. tall, according to when the seed is sown and the richness of the soil. The flowers are carried on long spikes and can be single or double in shades of pink, scarlet and purple — also white. The buds open up well in water.


Cleome spinosa is the spider plant, an unusual half-hardy annual with strong, rather sticky, 3 to 5-ft. Stems, spiny, palmate leaves (which smell unpleasant when bruised) and pink, rose, white or mauve flowers with 4 to 5-in, protruding anthers. There is also a yellow form called Golden Sparkler.


Coreopsis are North American annuals and perennials with daisy flowers mostly in yellow, gold and bronze shades. Coreopsis basalis (C. drummondi and C. tinctoria are hardy annuals, the former 1 to 2 ft. tall with large yellow flowers; the latter embracing races and varieties varying in height from 9 in. to 2 or 3 ft. The dwarfs make good border edging or pot plants; the taller kinds are excellent for cutting. The variety atrosanguinea has dark red single flowers and there are also singles and doubles in various shades and mixtures of colours.


Cosmos bipinnatus is at its best in late summer and autumn. It is an elegant plant with pale green feathery leaves, tall branching (2 to 3 ft.) stems and long-stemmed white, pink, rose or crimson daisies. There are also semi-doubles which come true from seed. All make excellent cut flowers. Treat as hardy annuals or half-hardy annuals (for stronger plants and earlier flowers). The soil should be on the poor side and the aspect sunny.


The ever-popular larkspurs are derived from two species of delphiniums (Delphinium ajacis and D. consolida). They are reliable hardy annuals with dainty spikes of pink, mauve, blue or white flowers which blend pleasantly, dry for winter decoration and grace any border. Heights vary from 2 1/2  to 5 ft., and apart from singles there are various doubles and a race of dwarfs at 18 in. Although not fastidious they do best from autumn sowings in open simny situations and well-drained soil. The seed germinates in about nineteen days and they flower from June over a period of eight to ten weeks. Spring sowing produces later blooms.


Gaillardia aristata, although perennial, is usually grown as a biennial or half-hardy annual. It has showy daisy flowers up to 5 in. across of bright yellow with zonings of other shades. There are also wine, copper, reds and tangerines in selected races like the Monarch strain. The height ranges up to 3 ft. and the soil should be well drained and the aspect sunny.


Godetias are valuable for summer bedding or pot work under glass, as well as cutting. For outdoor cultivation seed should be sown in a warm sunny position about March — or October, in gentle heat, for indoor work. Godetia grandiflora grows about 12 in. high with clusters of large flowers which, in the hybrids, range from white and various shades of pink to deep crimson. There are also doubles known as Azalea Flowered. G. amoena is taller and slenderer (2 to 2 ½ ft.) and has a similar colour range. The two species have been crossed to produce the very popular tall doubles.


Rudbeckia hirta is a splendid plant up to 3 ft. in height with branching, hairy stems and large daisy heads of flowers 3 to 4 in. across. These are golden yellow with dark centres. The Hirta Hybrida race come in various autumnal shades of orange, bronze, scarlet and yellow.


Salpiglossis sinuata is a beautiful half-hardy annual from Chile with dainty 2 to 3-ft. Branching stems and many trumpet-shaped flowers of crimson, scarlet, violet, yellow, ivory to buff, usually patterned with gold. Grow in a sheltered sunny position in rich moist soil.


Scabiosa atropurpurea or sweet scabious make delightful cut flowers with their long, stiff, 3-ft. Stems and round pincushion heads of white, pink, scarlet, mauve, blue or maroon. There are also doubles and dwarf strains. They can be treated as biennials or hardy annuals and also make striking border plants.


Zinnias (Zinnia elegans) need a rich moist soil and plenty of sun. Without these they invariably disappoint. They also resent transplanting so should be pricked out (from April sowings under glass) into small pots and from these to the garden in early June. Alternatively, seed can be sown outside in May. There are large-flowered strains of 2 to 3 ft. in distinct colours like orange, pink, scarlet and purple. Giant Dahlia and Chrysanthemum Flowered are examples and among the smaller types come Pumila Pompon, doubles, 1 ½ ft.; Peter Pan and Thumbelina, both 6 in. Envy is a curious chartreuse-green zinnia.

Other good cutting annuals include various grasses such as Briza maxima (quaking grass), Pennisetum longistylum, and Lagurus ovatus (hare’s tail), annual lupins, nasturtiums, centaurea, dianthus, polyanthus, violas, calendulas, dahlias, lathyrus and stocks.

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