A spring annuals are plants that complete their life cycle within one growing season: the seed germinate, grow, flower, set seed and die all within the space of a year. The seed is dormant until the return of conditions favorable to germination, usually the next spring. Biennials are similar, but take two years to complete their life cycle, usually flowering in the second year.
Spring annuals are unrivalled for bringing color into the garden throughout the warmer months. They bring any border to life within a matter of weeks, and give new gardens instant style and impact.
Spring annuals can be used in all sizes and kinds of gardens and even in tubs, window boxes, hanging baskets and all types of containers. Many plants bring other rewards, being deliciously scented or attractive to beneficial insects, and some will provide an excellent source of cut flowers for the home.
Lunaria annua. Honesty is an erect fast-growing, modest annual or biennal that has two seasons of interest. The pretty spring flowers are followed by distinctive, papery, oval seedheads that are excellent in dried arrangements. Lunaria annua, a European species, usually has purple, sometimes white, flowers in spring followed by translucent white seedheads in the fall. For white flowers only, sow seeds of L. annua var. albiflora. ‘Alba Variegata’ is a desirable garden form with pointed-oval, serrated, white-variegated leaves and white flowers. ‘Variegata’ has similar leaves but with small scented flowers in shades of purple-pink.
Honesty (lunaria annua)
Bellis perennis. The genus includes the pretty lawn daisies that generally appear unannounced in all gardens. This species is the parent of a number of seed strains, all producing rosettes of leaves and flowers in shades of red, pink or white. They are delightful in window boxes and are good bedding plants. ‘Dresden China’, a dwarf form, has small, pink, double flowers with quilled petals. The Habanera series cultivars bear pink, white or red, long-petalled flowerheads. Cultivars of both the Pomponette and Tasso series bear double pink, white or red flowerheads with quilled petals – the Pomponette varieties are up to 4cm across, Tasso up to 6cm.
Myosotis sylvatica (forget-me-nots). Myosotis are excellent spring bedding plants, and help to fill in the space around the long-stalked plants. The species has mid-blue, yellow-eyed flowers in spring and early summer and grey-green leaves. Although forget-me-nots will seed on their own freely, it is worth sowing these plants afresh every season the named forms always have flowers of a more intense color than their natural progeny. Forget-me-nots make a classic cottage-garden combination with tulips. ‘Blue Ball’ is a more compact form indigo flowers. The flowers of ‘Compindi‘, another dwarf form, are even darker. ‘Rosylva’ is something of a novelty, with clear pink flowers.
Viola. This endearing genus includes a delicate wild form known as heartsease, as well as rock garden plants, perennial sweet-scented violets, and the well-known pansies. Some are self-colored, but many are attractively bi- or even tri-colored with mask-like markings that make the flowers look like faces.
Antirrhinum. The unique “snapping” lips of the flowers of snapdragons give them a certain appeal to children. These half-hardy spring annuals provide strong blocks of color – white, yellow, orange, pink and red – in beds and borders.