Issue 22 • Seasonal tips and featured varieties coming to a retailer near you • April 10, 2009
With the average last frost date fast approaching, gardeners can start thinking about setting out many annual bedding plants. Ornamental annuals may not be edible like the vegetables, or as long-lasting as perennials, or as big and showy as some of the hardier tropicals, but they have their own indispensable niche in the garden. Because annual plants germinate, flower, set seed, and die within a one year span, they have the advantages of being fast-growing, low maintenance, profuse bloomers, and suitable to many climates and garden conditions. Annuals also have a diverse range of habits, from mat-forming to upright to vining, and can play many roles in the garden. They quickly fill a new bed; vary color schemes in a perennial border; attract birds and insects to their abundant, often fragrant, blooms; and are well-suited to container gardening. Annual foliage plants can provide interesting colors and textures to beds or containers; flowering plants bloom all season in the garden and many are excellent for cutting.
To boost our selection of these versatile varieties, we’re reviving our Annual Bedding program this year, offering a large collection of affordable, easy to grow, colorful starts grown in 3½” pots, jumbos, and mini-jumbos. From Alyssum to Zinnias, we have an array of bedding plants for nonstop spring to fall color in beds, borders, containers, or tucked in among vegetables, perennials, or shrubs. You’ll also find superb standout varieties on our Annual Collections lists.
One of the hardier annuals, sweet alyssum is a cool season bloomer whose soft fragrance and pastel shades are welcome in spring gardens. The ‘Clear Crystal’ series is a breeding breakthrough, the first tetraploid alyssum. While most plants have two sets of chromosomes, scientists can breed tetraploids, with four sets of chromosomes, to enhance certain qualities. Compared to other alyssum, ‘Clear Crystal’ produces bigger blooms over a longer season on tough, weather-resistant plants. Fragrant lavender, rose, and white flowerheads form on compact and vigorous plants that thrive in cool weather but keep going even in the heat. Low-growing foliage covered with pink, white, or purple flower clusters grows just 6-10 inches tall, forming a soft cushiony groundcover or flowing gently over the edge of a container or walkway.
In hues of sunny yellow, orange, gold and red, marigolds seem like a flower for the hot days of August. But they can be planted out as soon as danger of frost is past and will be blooming their way into summer before you know it. Marigolds can be compact or tall, single blooms or pompoms, straight colored or brocaded, and they may be used in beds, borders, as edging, for cutting, even interplanted among tomatoes or roses to deter harmful nematodes. In spite of the names used to group them (see below), marigolds are mainly native to the American southwest, Mexico, and Central America (not France or Africa), but are now grown throughout the world.
African Marigolds – Tagetes erecta Large-flowered African marigolds produce big 3 to 4 inch blooms, mostly doubles, in single colors that range from creamy pale yellow to pumpkin orange. The compact, upright plants stand 12 to 14 inches tall and bloom up to three weeks earlier than tall varieties. Tall African marigolds grow up to 3 feet tall, the long stems topped with large blooms in yellow or orange. These showy varieties could be staked to hold up the heavy blooms, which are favorites for cut flower arrangements. African marigolds on our variety list this year include ‘French Vanilla,’ ‘Galore Yellow,’ ‘Galore Orange,’ and ‘Sweet Cream.’
French Marigolds – Tagetes patula French marigolds are smaller than the African varieties, but bloom in a wider range of colors, including reds, mahogany, and bicolors (often called “brocades” for their petals edged in contrasting colors). Blooms may be single, double, crested, or tufted. Most French marigolds are compact plants that grow 12 to 16 inches tall, with dwarf varieties 12 inches or shorter. Uniform, dense, bloom-covered plants are ideal for edging, small dividers, and bedding. ‘Durango,’ with anemone type blooms and ‘Aurora,’ with a carnation-like form, are French marigolds on our Annual Color list.
Triploid Marigolds – Tagetes erecta x patula A cross between African and French marigolds, these hybrids produce slightly larger flowers, bloom a little earlier, and plants won’t go to seed, so the bloom period lasts longer. The ‘Zenith’ and ‘Sunburst’ series are triploid marigolds with unusual crested and anemone type blooms.
Species Marigolds Species marigolds have fine lacy foliage with a lemony scent and edible flowers. Because their strong scent hasn’t been bred out of them, these are the best types for repelling nematodes and other garden pests; many gardeners plant bunches of them throughout the vegetable garden. Their blooms are smaller and less flashy than some of the others, but you can add the edible, citrusy-tarragon flavored petals to salads, vegetables, or egg dishes for a colorful, flavorful accent. The ‘Gem’ series (Tagetes tenuifolia) is a colorful, edible variety of species marigold.
ONE OTHER FAVORITE…
Tagetes erecta ‘Nosento Limegreen’ – You’ll find this special marigold on our Annual Collections list. Plump lime-green blooms on sturdy stems last up to three weeks in the vase! ‘Nosento’ is an exceptional new marigold, intended for professional cultivation, that combines odorless blooms with an innovative color, long flowering period, and outstanding vase life. Plant in a cut flower garden and be rewarded June through October with large full blooms in shades of light green to soft yellow.
You can read previous issues of Garden News in the Log House Library.