The beauty of annual flowers lies in their ability to fill large areas, year on year, with minimum expense and effort.
Many of my annuals are just beginning to bloom – vibrant orange marigolds, blue and white borage, deep purple honeywort and the nodding heads of greater quaking grass weaving through the borders.
Although many annual flowers are already looking their best, it’s not too late to direct sow into containers or the ground now for some easy summer colour.
Try some of these late-flowering beauties:
One of my children’s favourites, nasturtiums are incredibly versatile. We sow them in our green roof, vegetable garden and hanging baskets and watch their fiery flowers spill over the edges.
Avoid sowing in rich soils as this encourages foliage at the expense of flowers.
For softer shades of flowers in creams and salmons, try N. ‘Milkmaid’ or N. ‘Ladybird Rose’.
N. ‘Black Velvet’ has rich red flowers that create interest as a ground cover beneath soft fruit bushes or on the edges of raised vegetable beds.
Nasturtium leaves and flowers add a peppery kick to salads and we love to pickle the seed pods as an alternative to capers. The pickled pods are particularly delicious on pizza and in tartar sauce.
These floating jewels are stalwarts of our sunny gravel garden. As well as Nigella papillosa ‘African Bride’, with its white flowers and deep purple centres, I love the soft pastels of N. damascena ‘Persian Jewels and sultry purple N. hispanica.
Once the flowers fade, they form structural seed heads which will continue the season of interest into the autumn.
Love-in-a-mist prefers well-drained soils and if it is happy, it will self-seed for many years to come.
The ferny foliage, attractive flowers and spiky seed heads make it an ideal cut flower, creating a hazy backdrop for more structural blooms.
With its blue or white nectar-rich flowers, borage is perfect to attract a range of pollinating insects.
Like love-in-a-mist, borage is a prolific self-seeder. In our garden, it grows all over the strawberry patch, producing a myriad of seedlings that can be potted up or transplanted to other areas of the garden.
The star-shaped flowers are edible as well as beautiful and my daughter loves to add them to ice cubes. Traditionally they are used to decorate Pimms with cucumber, orange, strawberries and mint.
For more inspiration on flowers you can grow to eat, read this:
Borage works well in ice cubes
Try growing a cocktail in a pot with borage in the centre, surrounded by mint and wild strawberries as fillers and spillers around the edge.
Last year, I threw a few Coreopis seeds in a pot and forgot about them. By midsummer, Coreopsis × hybrida ‘Incredible' had lived up to its name, producing masses of white, cream and yellow blooms with dark maroon centres.
With regular deadheading, the flowering continued for weeks. It really was maximum impact for minimum effort.
Poached Egg Plants
I have only once seen a carpet of bees – on a bed of poached egg plants.
This RHS Award of Garden Merit winning annual is a magnet for pollinators and is really easy for children to grow.
My kids love to watch bees, butterflies and hoverflies visiting the aptly-named yellow flowers with white edges. Seeds should germinate in a couple of weeks for late summer blooms, or sow in September for early summer colour next year.