Every so often when I am reading one of my garden magazines I come across a list of favorites-sometimes annuals, sometimes perennials, wild flowers, etc. I usually check the list to see how many of them I have or one I should have.  The latest one I saw was annuals and garden centers will try to have them all.  Sometimes the ones we call annuals here (lack of hardiness) are call perennials or biennials in a more   southern list.

          Marigolds (Tagetes sp.) are on most lists as they are so easy to grow either from seed or plants.  There are short ones and tall ones (6 inches to 36 inches). All of them are drouth resistant after their roots have become well established. During our hot dry spells they may get Spider Mites, but if you watch close they can be knocked off by a hose. If I am planting seeds and we are rather dry, I make my ditch the depth given on the seed packet and gently water the entire length and then plant the seeds. Those new little roots that form need some moisture. Even the driest plants like some water!

          IMPATIENS are planted all over the world more than any other plants.  They are also one of the first ones affected by frost in the fall so I put them out a little later than some of the others. If you squeeze a stem tightly, notice that they are mostly water.   The seeds are so very small I have never been very good at starting them from seed.  One good sneeze and you can loose a packet of seed. But for a variety of color in one plant they can’t be beat. There are ruffled edges, double and s ingle flowers under part shade. There are sizes of 6 inches up to 18 inches tall and wide so check your labels if you want and even bed.

          Another  plant listed in some places that I don’t see much of in Lincoln is TALL VERBENA (Verbena bonarensis), a tall (3 feet to 5 feet), skinny, usually purple plant that re-seeds for me very generously, and is a perennial down South. The flowers are small but go well in vases, filling in spaces between larger flowers.  It is listed as a Zone 7 plant so some winters I lose it completely but some of the seed companies have it. I just throw them on top of the soil and then walk on them to make sure they are touching soil.

          ZINNIAS and PETUNIAS are on most lists. We probably had them as kids with our first seeds, in our very first garden, along with some big seeds like CORN or BEANS to make sure we were a success. Both are easy.

          SNAPDRAGONS are for impatient people as these flowers can handle more cold than many. They can be planted in the fall (seed) or in the spring (plants or seed). I like the little short ones best as the plant spreads 8 inches to 12 inches wide and only 6 inches tall. I have a group of red ones that have volunteered several years in the hottest place in the yard (on the west side of a brick garage).  I have helped them by cutting the drying heads off and letting them drop in the area. The taller ones may have to be staked as those heads get heavy.

          SPIDER FLOWERS (Cleome hassleriana) and COSMOS both can be 4 feet tall and are often on the annual list. It is more likely you will find the COSMOS. Both need full sun and both produce seeds like you can’t believe.  The tall ones make a good background for shorter, daintier plants. A number of people do not like the smell of CLEOME. Each of them has a shorter version and different colors.  COSMOS can be anywhere from 1 foot to 4 feet tall with many colors that do well in bouquets.  Check the seed envelope to be sure you get what you want. The COSMOS are fast growing enough so that they can be pulled as they start to fade and a new crop started in the same summer.

          Lantana is on some of the lists. I have mentioned it as one of my favorites to “collect” Hummingbirds. FLOWERING TOBACCO (Nicotiana) makes some lists. They are usually talking about the shorter ones of many colors that will grow in high or light shade. They are 2.5 feet to 3 feet tall and blooms for a long time. It is also very good about reseeding itself.  The older varieties usually have a very nice perfume that the newer hybrids with their larger flowers do not have. My favorite is the tall one (up to 5 feet) in white. Most of the Nicotiana species prefer to open at night and “Sylvestris variety” will close on a sunny day. It has its blooms in groups that hang down in a loose cluster of trumpet flowers.  They are not hardy here in Lincoln but produce many, many tiny seeds. They do well in partial shade.

          GLOBE AMARANTH (Gomphrena sp), most of which are very short, was a surprise I found on one list. They are about 12 inches wide with little balls of various colors. They make a good edging, and as with most annuals they like full sun.  You can cut them just as they open, dry them upside down, and use them in a winter bouquet.

          These are some of my favorites. Why don’t you sit down some evening and make a list of your favorite flowers to grow. You may want to also make a list of your favorite vegetables to eat or to grow. A third list may be one of fruits and berries. If you have room it is fun to try something new each year.

Copyright 2013