A freshly planted border of annuals

'Planting for Colour - Annuals' - That was the title of my talk and demonstration last week in the latest RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) event at Abriachan.
Driveway annual border - Summer 2010
We looked at an annual border first.
This is the headland area near to the road and our aim is always to have a blaze of colour from July onwards. I reckon we have succeeded every one of the past 25 years to do that; sometimes the rain has damped the show and sometimes the sun has accelerated it.  All good fun and I wish I wish I wish I had taken a chronological record of things, but it is patchy.
In truth the border is becoming a bit of an annual and perennial mix, as over the years we have gradually planted some plants that have surprised us and become perennial and other edging plants are cheekily encroaching on to the plot.
Here are the principles I use:
* First and always, I plant three Scot’s Thistle, Onopordum acanthemum. This is for drama and the photo opportunities. Onopordum is a biennial, hence they will make a large silver rosette in this first year and then will shoot up to flower with their fabulous purple thistle heads next spring.
  * Then I think about colour and drama and reach for Dahlias. Each year I try a new variety and this year it is a red double called Murdoch. The others I use a lot are
o Arabian Nights - A tall rich red double.
o Moonfire - Apricot yellow single , ted centre; dark foliage
o Bishop of Llandaff - Vivid red double on dark foliage.
* Then height and strength. No staking here. I usually go for Nicotiana, the tobacco plants. My favourite is Nicotiana affinis, but just as good is Nicotiana sylvestris, which has whorls of white flowers. Avoid the dwarfed hybrids like Domino…no bottle.

* Then more tall and filling…and always I reach for Cosmos Sensation. Feathery foliage and substantial pink and purple flowers.  It also shoots away fast, I only like to weed that corner once before the foliage grows over.
* Then the middle height. To contrast and compliment the Dahlias, Rudbeckia bulks up and gives an excellent late show.
* Then at a lower height about 25cm, my favourite is annual barley grass Hordeum jubatum and Opium poppies,  imagine them dancing in the breeze.

* Calendula, ordinary Pot Marigold Orange King is excellent and weather proof. If it looks like yet another cool wet summer, I can guarantee a show with these.
* Covering the edges; White Bacopa , Bidens or Sanvitalia are excellent and I have used trailing Lobelia Sapphire. All good and pretty edge frills .
* Filling spaces …..And there always seems to be a few, Tagetes, Cornflower, Night scented stock. Lovely
I hope everyone walking up from the road will stop and stare, and enjoy that corner as much as I do.

To end, here are my best annuals to plant this summer of uncertain weather. …still time.
Sow in June plant out in July enjoy from late August to November and even Christmas.
1. Tagetes… long season and utterly reliable.
2. Cosmos Sensation…the others don’t cut the mustard
3. Rudbeckia.... I like the tall ones, give a long late seaso, try to find Irish Eyes
4. Pot Marigold... well fed this gives a great show.
5. Parsley…..yes curly leaf parsley, strictly a biennial, but it is the most vivid green you can get and a wonderful contrast to marigold orange.
MD Abriachan June 2012


  1. Superb planning and choices of plants! That's going to look stunning in just a few weeks!

  2. Many of my favourite annuals here, and of course many of them self-seed (whether you want them again or not!), so they just keep on giving!

  3. I may well have cut back on annuals but they don't half give a grand show. Your driveway annual border looks fabulous. I particularly like the Bishop of Llandaff, remember a couple of years back when it was all the rage, great foliage unlike many of the Dahlias.


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