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This hardy annual has vibrant, ornamental red, yellow, and green foliage that lends a tropical effect to the garden. Small flowers, borne from summer to early autumn, are inconspicuous in comparison to the effect of the foliage. Cultivars feature yellow and maroon-shaded leaves, but the species still offers the showiest foliage.
These fast-growing plants with succulent, bristly stems are old-fashioned favorites of the border or herb garden. They self sow to produce a succession throughout the season of new plants and blossoms. The beautiful flowers are edible and are particularly bequiling on salad or floating in summer drinks.
Pot marigolds bloom most of the summer, but are intolerant of intense heat and may die out during periods of hot humid weather. Their branching stems are covered with simple, alternate leaves and they produce large flowers in different hues of yellow and orange in the summer.
This pepper boasts the most dramatically deep purple-black leaves and fruit imaginable. The vigorous, bushy plants grow to 18 inches tall and almost as wide. Flowers are lilac, and dark black peppers emerge in fall.
This colorful annual legume bears attractive yellow flowers that have reddish-purple spots at their base. The compound, feathery leaves look like those of sensitive plant. Fruit is contained in a pea pod, which adds additional garden interest and may attract birds.
Cosmos are branching annuals with ferny foliage and pink, crimson, or white flowers that work well in the back of a border. Although introduced in 1799, cosmos did not beome popular for the garden or as the subject of breeding efforts until the early 1900s. The rest is now history. The variety 'Sensation' won the All-American Selection Award of Merit in 1936 for its clear colors of pink and white, on early-blooming, 3- to 4-foot-tall plants. 'Purity' is the glistening white form of cosmos in the 'Sensation' series. 'Sea Shells' has quilled florets. The Sonata Series cultivars are dwarf plants only growing to about a foot or two tall.
Yellow blooms resembling orchids and large, glossy leaves makes 'Jungle Gold' an interesting addition to containers, where it will bloom more profusely than if it were in the ground. It performs well in shade.
This tuberous-rooted tender perennial is related to portulaca, but has fleshy green leaves and delicate, wiry flower stalks. Stalks have a fine, see-through texture. Minute hot pink flowers are followed by carmine-colored seed pods that are showier than the flowers. The variety 'Kingwood Gold' has chartreuse foliage. Plants can grow to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.
'Torch' is a quick-growing annual that produces vivid red or orange-red dahlia-like flowers from mid-summer on. Its leaves are somewhat attractive, being dark green and lobed. Plants can reach up to 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide in just a few months.
This old-fashioned cultivar of the species has a mounding habit and grows 12-18 inches tall and wide. In summer and fall, it bears mahogany red, single to semi-double flowers. The rounded leaves and spurred, five-petaled flowers are edible.
This upright, 30-inch-tall, bushy annual cloaks itself all summer in purple blossoms up to 2 inches across. But more important, it is the forebear of scores of varieties that can be found in almost any place you can buy seeds. There's the Whirligig Series, the California Giants, the Profusion Series, the State Fair Series—the list goes on and on.
The needlelike leaves of these Profusion Series zinnas lend a soft textural feel that contrasts nicely with the glowing hot colors of the flowers. The vibrant flowers are about 2 inches in diameter, and the plants grow to just 12 to 15 inches tall and wide. Use them en masse in borders and beds, or plant them in containers. -Julia Jones, Designing with annuals, Fine Gardening issue #120
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