favourite summer half-hardy annuals

Sarah shows us five favourite summer half-hardy annuals for bountiful vases, brilliant containers and scented arrangements.

One of my very favourite things at Perch Hill is our new flower wall, and what we have here is everything that’s in flower that you can grow from seed.

Cosmos ‘Purity’ has to be one of the best all-time plants. It was one of the first things that I experimented with here in the garden at Perch Hill, doing a square metre patch and monitoring how many buckets I could pick from this over a whole season, and it was 50, isn’t that amazing when you compare that to a peony which is half a bucket in a whole calendar year. With this Cosmos ‘Purity’ it’s 50. It’s pretty, it’s simple, it’s got lovely white sort of slightly crinkly textured petals, and the other thing that’s remarkable about it, is it’s foliage is really pretty, so you just need a big jar or vase of Cosmos ‘Purity’, and you’ve got a wonderful arrangement.

This is my favourite of the dark, rich coloured cosmos, it’s called ‘Rubenza’. It’s a brilliant cut flower, it’s a brilliant border filler, and it’s a brilliant container plant because it doesn’t get so tall. This one is more like 60, 70cm and it lasts fantastically in a vase and flowers HONESTLY from the beginning of July to the end of October.

Nicotiana ‘Grandiflora’ is one of my very favourite plants for a shade container. It doesn’t like it in the heat, it completely collapses, but as soon as the temperatures cool, it comes out fully and pumps out the most delicious fragrance which is like a sort of spicy jasmine. Now if you’re a night owl that’s great because you can put it perhaps where you eat in the evening, but if you’re not – I’m certainly not, I am a lark not an owl – I pick a few stems and put this by my bed and then I can wake up in that lovely fragrant cloud.

I didn’t used to like soft, pastel colours, I was always a dark, rich, Venetian saturated colour person, but I’ve completely fallen in love with this Antirrhinum or snapdragon. It’s called ‘Appleblossom’, and it looks like apple blossom. Some stems are quite white with a flush of pink, some stems are more pink with a flush of white, and the amazing thing about it is it’s got the most delicious slightly spicy, fruity fragrance, it’s one of the best cut flowers for the summer.

I love all the snapdragons, the antirrhinums, they’re really versatile because you can either sow them in the autumn, or you can sow them in the spring, and what we find is actually you can plant them out quite often in the autumn, or if not if you’ve got a cold frame, store them in there, pot them on and you get flowers at least 6 weeks earlier than you do if you spring sow them, so you get them in May. This is one of my absolute favourites, Antirrhinum ‘White Giant’, which is giant, it gets to nearly a metre.

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