Why do I love easy annual flowers like zinnias , marigolds, bachelor buttons, morning glories, alyssum, cosmos, and sweet william?
Let me count the ways!
1. They are so forgiving that I couldn't kill them during my first year of gardening.
2. They are so EASY that I started them from seed when I couldn't start anything else from seed. It is also just as easy to direct sow them.
3. They bloom heavily all summer, unlike perennials that have to conserve energy for next year.
4. They have so many blooms that I can always have cheerful cut flowers indoors.
5. They have so many blooms that I can give away bouquets. I can give away so many cut flowers that I have to use cut-off plastic soda bottles as vases. (If they want to tip over, try some stones in the bottom of the bottle. That may also help the stems stand up straight.)
6. The bed is empty from fall through spring, so I can weed, till, and amend the bed without having to work around the plants.
7. Many annuals make lots of seed and will re-seed themselves as if they were perennials. Or, you can collect some of that bountiful seed harvest and trade the seeds, give them away, or sow wide areas next year. I had some white alyssum take hold in the cracks of a sidewalk and then they sowed themselves in the same spot for three years.
8. You can start many seedlings from saved seeds, and then trade or give away the seedlings or potted plants to friends and neighbors, or sell them as part of a charity drive.
9. Although the big box stores might only sell a few colors and varieties of these annual plants, you can buy or trade for hundreds of amazing varieties and colors, if you start from seeds.
10. These traditional favorites have names that are easy to pronounce and remember! When people ask what they are, they recognize the name and smile, instead of blinking and saying "Huh?"
11. Once you've learned how to start big, easy flower seeds, and how to pot up and harden off these sturdy and forgiving plants, you'll find it pretty easy to learn to start propagating lovely tiny-seeded plants, such as petunias, lobelia, violas (pansies), herbs, daisies, perennials, or you-name-it. Annuals are a great way to "get your feet wet" gardening. By learning gardening skills on easy plants, you can develop habits for the dos and don'ts and your own favorite methods without killing whole trays of seeds, as I did for years.
If you overwater or underwater, or overfertilize, or don't move them into bigger pots, or don't provide enough light, these tolerant plants will just slow their growth or get sulky and droop or turn yellow, instead of dying in droves.
Even if you're an experienced gardener, you might have forgotten the simple pleasure of sow-and-forget, or of scooping up armsful of African marigolds, or seeing a fence covered with morning glories. I think zinnias are the most cheerful flowers on earth, and the only things easier to grow are weeds.
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