Annual Flowers and Annual Plants
Annual Flowers for Planting in Beds and Borders
Annual flowers andgive the best performance of colour if planted with minimum root disturbance in well-prepared beds and borders.
A garden can be filled quickly with colour from annual flowers and— they flower longer than most other plants and are ideal for filling gaps in a border or for an entire summer bed. , which spring up afresh year after year, can be grown exclusively in a border or island bed, but do equally well as attractive companions to mixed shrub planting.
An attractive border or bed of annual flowers depends much on how the plants are arranged. Later-flowering or foliage annual plants should conceal gaps left by earlier flowers — colours should blend and everything should be in scale. Seed and nursery catalogues provide inspiration and are available in good time for you to plan a selection and design the layout.
Preparing for Annual Plants
Beginpreparations in early to mid autumn. Pull this season’s faded and dead plants from the soil, using a fork to loosen stubborn ones. Once all the old vegetation has been removed, apply a 2.5-5cm (1-2in) layer of well-rotted manure or garden to the surface of the soil. This gives body to light, dry soil and helps to retain moisture; it also improves aeration and drainage of heavy soils and adds nutrients.
Turn over the soil and compost together with a garden fork. Leave it lumpy since a better soil surface is produced if winter frosts are allowed to penetrate deeply and break it down naturally. It is easier to turn over soil when it’s moist — if the ground is hard, water it thoroughly the day be fore. If the soil is too sticky after rain, leave it for a few days before you start digging.
In spring, as soon as the soil is dry enough, loosen up the top 15- 20cm (6-8in) — slightly deeper if it was a severe winter — with a fork. While doing this look out for leatherjackets (leathery, slate-grey larvae, rather like legless caterpillars) and wireworms (segmented yellow-brown, worm-like creatures). Both pests feed on the roots of plants. If you see either, sprinkle some bromophos or HCH powder on to the soil. One treatment should be enough to eradicate these pests.
Just before planting your annual plants, add some general-purpose fertilizer, such as Growmore, to the soil. Scatter the fertilizer evenly at the rate of two handfuls per sq m/yd, then rake it lightly into the top 2.5cm (lin) of soil to produce a fine tilth.
Planting Annual Plants
If you have raised your annual plants under glass from seed, harden them off beforein a sheltered outdoor site. The best time for planting is between late spring and very early summer. Planting of half-hardy annual plants can begin as soon as the risk of local frost has passed. The soil should be moist — if not, water thoroughly the day before planting.
Annual plants can be grown in various containers — expanded polystyrene trays or strips, rigid plastic or wooden seed trays or in individual plastic or clay pots. The growing system adopted will influence the best planting technique. Certain hardy annual plants get off to a better start if they are sown in situ the previous autumn.
Water bedding strips and trays an hour or two before planting — this ensures that the compost adheres to the root ball and so reduces root damage during planting out. Before removing plants from their container, mark out the planting site, according to your plan, using a garden cane, a stick, the edge of a board or trails of sand.
Annual plants grown on in individual pots or compartmented trays can be planted out with almost no root disturbance, but with other types you will have to separate individual plants and so some root damage is inevitable. With care, however, all newly plantedrecover well and soon produce a fine show of flowers.
Remove annual plants from wooden or plastic trays with as much root as possible. Ideally remove the whole mass of, roots and compost intact. Loosen the soil and root mass by bumping the tray gently, then with the tray on the ground, tilt it to almost 90° until the root mass begins to flop out of the tray. Quickly insert the palm of one hand under the root mass, let go of the tray with the other hand and manoeuvre the plants gently on to the ground — this is less difficult than it sounds provided the compost is moist and the plants are well rooted.
Remove annual plants from bedding strips in a similar way, though you will have to turn the strip right over and take the root mass into the palm of the other hand. Many of these strips are flimsy and not re-usable, so it is often easier simply to break the container away from the root ball.
Separate the annual plants by cutting them apart with a knife or the edge of a hand trowel. Less root damage may be caused by easing the plants apart with your fingers, but be careful not toand break up the soil around the roots in so doing. Ensure that each plant has a good root system.
Spacing Your Annual Flowers
The correct spacing between annual flowers will depend on the species. A good general rule is to space plants half their eventual height apart, except for those with a spreading growth habit, which should be spaced the equivalent of their full height apart.
Dig a planting hole with a hand trowel, making it wide and deep enough to accommodate the annual plant’s entire root system but not so deep that air spaces are left beneath the roots. Remove any stones or other obstacles that may impede root penetration. Insert the plant so that the base of its stem is level with the surface of the soil. Fill the hole and firm in the plant with your fingers. When you have finished a bed, water in well using a fine-rose watering can — apply a fair amount of water since a light sprinkling will not penetrate to the roots and instead will merely encourage roots to grow near the surface, where they will be vulnerable to hoeing and dry weather.
Alternatively, insert the plant, then wash the soil into the hole and around the roots by ‘puddling’ with water from an open-spouted watering can. Leave while the water soaks in, then fill in any remaining small holes around the plant by hand. Level the surface after you have finished planting the bed.
When planting a lot of annual plants, work in batches. Cut only as many plants from a box as you can plant in a couple of minutes, especially when working on a warm day. Avoid planting during hot sunshine when plants quickly wilt — a dull day or cool, damp evening is preferable.
Soon after planting, encourage plants that are not normally bushy to develop branching side shoots and more annual flowers by pinching out their growing tips.