This winter I decided to grow all my own sun-loving annuals. It sounds challenging but it wasn't. I bought grow lights, plopped seeds into large plastic drink cups, and kept them watered. It helped that I only grew plants that were easy to grow. Plants that needed a chill period were winter-sown. By growing my own plants, I was guaranteed my garden would be free of the pesticides that are routinely given to commercially grown plants. So, how'd I do? Just fine, thank you.
Pow Wow Wildberry coneflowers
These are dwarf coneflowers that bloom the first year from seed. They needed to be cold stratified and were slow growers but are worth the patience.
Blue dwarf bush morning glories, curly parsley, and Denver daisies.
Like regular morning glories, these little guys only bloom in the morning but are cute trailing out of pots. They were very easy to grow. The winter sown parsley is grown for the swallowtail butterflies and the Denver daisies (rudbeckia hirta) are non-stop bloomers.
I love these! Known for heat and drought tolerance, they only reach about 18 inches in height.
Peggy's Delight zinnias
I grew these from old seed but they all germinated. These are a tall, cactus flowered zinnia in a variety of soft, sherbety colors.
Their colors range from cream and pink to orange.
Poet's Tassel (Orange Tassel Flower)
I winter sowed these and only a single plant grew. Yep, just one. Next year I'll put them under grow lights. They have tall stems with tiny orange flowers, much loved by the pollinators.
This is a combination of Irish Eyes rudbeckia with seedlings of straight species rudbeckia.
Rudbeckia hirta doesn't need any help to grow so I've decided to stop helping it. I'll scatter seeds this fall where I want seedlings and be done with it.
Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth)
There's been a bit of weirdness with the gomphrena this year. The pink looks almost white, the white is very vigorous, the purple less vigorous, and the orange is long and rangey, flopping about like a squid. The orange needs much more water than the others, so I moved it to a slightly moist spot.
Dahlias, Persian Carpet zinnias, and Moulin Rouge zinnias
The dahlias are non-stop bloomers as are the little Persian Carpet zinnias. I grew the red zinnias after squirrels ransacked a pot of giant Indian Summer rudbeckia. I cannot resist a plant named after the Moulin Rouge. Had they been named 'Dateless and in a Turtleneck' I'd have passed them by.
Persian Carpet zinnias
These don't have the color variation advertised but so what....
'Moulin Rouge' zinnias
Cosmic Orange cosmos and Sonata cosmos (upper right - not blooming)
Bees ignore the Sonata in favor of the orange flowers on the daily. The Cosmic Orange is a heavy, cheerful bloomer.
I thought these would be blooming in a variety of hot colors but they're pink, pink, pink. That's ok because I like pink but I think I'll buy these next year since they don't attract pollinators, anyway.
'Blue Monday' salvia
I thought this would have spires of dark blue flowers but only the tips are blue so I feel a bit mislead. But they were insanely easy to grow and the bees love them.
The blue pot in the middle right is full of 'Blue Monday' salvia and 'Mammoth' verbena.
'Tuscany Lavender' verbena
This is a tough, pretty plant that needs very little attention or extra water. But it was hard to convince to grow so I'm not sure if I'll grow it again.
This dwarf variety is supposed to be 3-4 feet tall but mine is already 4.5 feet tall and I doubt it's done. I've staked it to keep it from snapping in the rain and love its huge, velvety leaves.
So what didn't grow?
The campanula were duds, the angelonia refused to germinate and the sweet peas were fried by a warm spring. My much loved ammi wasn't as vigorous as last year and was then crowded out by a massive knautia.
What about everything else?
The centranthus grew well but waited til it warmed up to do much, leaving me convinced they'd wimped out. The hyssop grew like mad as did the linaria, another plant that needs zero help to grow. The hollyhocks haven't bloomed yet but are on their way. The 'Zahara Starlight' zinnias grew well but are boring.
The dahlias bloom in a variety of colors, which is fun. Never underestimate the power of a happy surprise.