Interest in spring flowers come and go. Who’d have thought 20 years ago, or even 10, that dahlias would again have become such favorites? So let’s hear it for another group of plants coming back into style: hardy annuals—the seed-propagated flowers that give you the very best value for your hard-earned pennies. You’ll find them far less expensive than filling the same area with transplants of petunias or impatiens from the nursery. Sow them in spring where you’d like them to flower. Many can also be sown in fall in some areas to flower even more prolifically the following year. (Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)
A sunflower with subtlety and style, Valentine has soft, creamy white rays that become a richer yellow shade close to the deep black centers. The six-inch flowers are just right for the size of the plant. Sunflowers are easy to grow in a sunny place, though be sure to protect the young seedlings from slugs (if you notice the slimy creatures becomming a problem, Do These 6 Things To Wipe Out Snails And Slugs).
This spreading California native tolerates wetter soil and a little more shade than most direct-sow annuals. The white-eyed, sky blue flowers open over a long season. Spent blooms usually drop seeds to produce more plants for the following year, and it may even self-sow in cracks in shady paving.
Justifiably one of the most popular of all direct-sow annuals, Nigella is a lovely plant from soon after germination until its seed heads dry in fall. Repeatedly divided leaves make an attractive rosette from which spring vertical stems carrying sky blue flowers followed by inflated seedpods. Both flowers and seed pods can be cut and used in any one of the 3 Ways To Make Organic Bouquets.
White Lace flower combines well with other annuals and perennials and is bright and cheerful in its own right. Its divided foliage stands behind the large pure white heads with small central florets and looks similar to a Lacecap Hydrangea. This annual is good in dry soil and works well as a cut flower in bouquets.
A compact, bushy heirloom nasturtium from the 1800's, Empress of India looks lovely planted in gravel or as a colorful addition to your container garden. Its small, dark blue-green leaves make the perfect background for the sultry, deep scarlet flowers, which keep coming well into fall. They grow best in full sun and poor soil. Sow the large seeds after the last frost in your area.