Photo/Illustration: Adrianna Vargo
Sure, perennials and woody plants provide a garden with lasting structure, but for me, annuals are the mainstays of the summer garden. When it comes to their intense colors, low maintenance, and profusion of blooms, annuals are unmatched. Their rapid growth helps fill empty spaces, and plants often outcompete pesky weeds. Best of all, using annuals gives me a chance to experiment with a different canvas of colors and textures each year without the commitment that comes with planting hardy perennials and shrubs. Whether in the garden or in containers, annuals work tirelessly to transform a garden plot into the bountiful oasis we all crave in the heat of summer.
As much as I love annuals, I realize it can be a challenge to find unusual varieties. As a grower of specialty plants and cut flowers, I am always amazed by the abundance of homogeneous petunia and geranium plants and the dearth of alternatives that are offered to gardeners each spring. Over the past decade, I have stumbled upon a stunning array of reliable annual plants. My list of favorites includes many that can be found at a local farmers’ market or small nursery. If you can’t find them locally, you can buy their seed from a specialty-seed supplier. These annuals are easy to grow from seed and will, in turn, produce seed that you can collect and save for the next season—or give to friends and neighbors who will, no doubt, comment on the uniqueness of the plant.