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Annual Flowers and Plants

Annual Flowers and PlantsThe annual flowers are those that give their best bloom in the very year in which the seeds are sown. True annuals are those plants that complete their entire life cycle in one season. Some of the so-called annual flowers will continue to bloom the second and third years, but the bloom is so poor and sparse after the first season that it does not pay to keep them. Some perennials may be treated as annuals by starting the seeds early; Chinese pink, pansy and snapdragon are examples.

If flowers of any annual are wanted extra early, the seeds should be started under cover. A greenhouse is not necessary for this purpose, although best results are to be expected with such a building. The seed may be sown in boxes, and these boxes then placed in a sheltered position on the warm side of a building.

At night they may be covered with boards or matting. In very cold "spells" the boxes should be brought inside. In this simple way seeds may often be started one to three weeks ahead of the time when they can be sown in the open garden. Moreover, the plants are likely to receive better care in these boxes, and therefore to grow more rapidly. Of course, if still earlier results are desired, the seed should be sown in the kitchen, hotbed, coldframe, or in a greenhouse.

In starting plants ahead of the season, be careful not to use too deep boxes. Three inches of earth is sufficient, and in some cases (as when the plants are started late) half this depth is enough.

The difficulty with early sown seedlings is "drawing up," and weakness from crowding and want of light. This is most liable to occur with window-grown plants. Vigorous June-sown plants are better than such weaklings. It must be remembered that very early bloom usually means the shortening of the season at the other end; this may be remedied to some extent by making sowings at different times.

A few of the annuals thrive in partial shade or where they receive sunshine for half the day; but most of them prefer a sunny situation.

Any good garden soil is suitable for annuals. If not naturally fertile and friable, it should be made so by the application of well-rotted stable-manure or humus. The spading should be at least one foot deep. The upper six inches is then to be given a second turning to pulverize and mix it. After making the surface fine and smooth the soil should be pressed down with a board. The seed may now be sprinkled on the soil in lines or concentric circles, according to the method desired. After covering the seed, the soil should be again pressed down with a board. This promotes capillarity, by which the surface of the soil is better supplied with moisture from below. Always mark with a label the kind and position of all seed sown.

If the flowers are to be grown about the edges of the lawn, make sure that the grass roots do not run underneath them and rob them of food and moisture. It is well to run a sharp spade deep into the ground about the edges of the bed every two or three weeks for the purpose of cutting off any grass roots that may have run into the bed. If beds are made in the turf, see that they are 3 ft. or more wide, so that the grass roots will not undermine them. Against the shrub borders, this precaution may not be necessary. In fact, it is desirable that the flowers fill all the space between the overhanging branches and the sod.

For bold mass-displays of color in the rear parts of the grounds or along the borders, some of the coarser species are desirable. Good plants for such use are: sunflower and castor bean for the back rows; zinnias for bright effects in the scarlets and lilacs; African marigolds for brilliant yellows; nicotianas for whites. Unfortunately, we have no robust-growing annuals with good blues. Some of the larkspurs and the browallias are perhaps the nearest approach to them.

For lower-growing and less gross mass-displays, the following are good: California poppies for oranges and yellows; sweet sultans for purples, whites, and pale yellows; petunias for purples, violets, and whites; larkspurs for blues and violets; bachelor's buttons (or cornflowers) for blues; calliopsis and coreopsis and calendulas for yellows; gaillardias for red-yellows and orange-reds; China asters for many colors.

For still less robustness, good mass-displays can be made with the following: alyssums and candytufts for whites; phloxes for whites and various pinks and reds; lobelias and browallias for blues; pinks for whites and various shades of pink; stocks for whites and reds; wallflowers for brown-yellows; verbenas for many colors.

The ornamental grasses should not be overlooked. They add a note to the flower-garden and to bouquets that is distinct and can be secured by no other plants. They are easily grown. Some of the good annual grasses are Agrostis nebulosa, the brizas, Bromus brizæformis, the species of eragrostis and pennisetums, and Coix Lachryma as a curiosity. Such good lawn grasses as arundo, pampas-grass, eulalias, and erianthus are perennials and are therefore not included in this discussion.