Annual plants require one year to complete its life cycle. A true annual will go from seed to bloom to setting new seeds within a single growing season.
Annual is an English word taken from the Latin ‘Annus’ which means year.
Some plants that are botanically biennials or perennials and have been started early indoors will also bloom the first year from seed. They can be considered as annuals but are not a true annual.
The main uses of annuals in the cottage garden is for boarders and filling in gaps. They can also be features in their own right. They are particularly useful in small gardens where there is little room for large boarders. Most annuals are rapid growers and are loved by gardeners for the summer colour they provide.
Luckily there are no set rules for choosing your annual plants simply grow the ones you love, or choose by colour. Do you want vivid splashes of yellow or more subtle whites and pinks? As they are annuals you will be changing them each year so have a little fun experimenting you can always try a different planting scheme next year.
Annuals are normally planted out in autumn for early flowers next spring and summer. September is a good month as the soil is still warm. Sow out hardy annuals that can winter well. Hardy annuals are a cottage favourite they grow best in cool weather and can tolerate a fair amount of frost.
Growing annuals from seed is done by sowing directly into the soil either by broadcasting the seeds and covering with a light layer of fine soil or drilling a hole with your finger into the soil and then place the seed. Make sure that the soil is well prepared and weed free, fertiliser is not needed yet, as the leaves will grow at the expense of the flowers. Allow enough growing space between each plant depending on the fully grown size of each plant. Water carefully with a fine spray. If you are concerned about a bad winter cover your hardy annuals with cloches.
Half-hardy annuals hold up well to damp cold weather and even a light frost but cannot tolerate prolonged exposure to freezing weather. These will need protection in the green house, with cloches or grow indoors. It is for this reason that half-hardy and tender annuals are not traditional cottage favourites, that being said Amaranthus caudatus (Love-lies-bleeding) and Antirrhinum majus (Snapdragon) have more recently become popular in cottage gardens.
If you do not mind the extra effort for the sake of your favourite plant then by all means grow the ones you want to see next summer in your cottage garden.
Annuals are popular cottage garden plants as they are easy to raise and grow and provide an abundant amount of colour in all shades. As they only last a season they require no long term commitment or planning, little soil preparation and simply end up as compost at the end of summer. If a plant did not look right all summer you get to choose a new one for next year. They are a great introduction to flower gardening for a beginner so remember to have a little fun choosing your annual plants.
Annual plants are just that, lasting for only a year, after summer your flower beds will look bare so for out of season colour why not add a few bulbs or biennials.
In each plant portrait and growing guide I will mention if they cross over into biennial, annual or perennial.
For best results they should be planted out in autumn. Its best to plant out early in the season as waiting till it gets colder could produce smaller flowering plants.
Here is a list of favourite cottage garden hardy annuals. (You will soon be able to) click on the plant name to get the growing guide and portrait for each plant.