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Flowering annuals add burst of color to fall

Flowering annuals will show you a good time with the brightest colors in the plant world. Grow them in sun, shade, underneath shrubs or trees, in borders or in containers of any kind.

Annuals don’t mess around. They hit the ground on a dead run and will be in full bloom in a matter of weeks. You don’t have to wait a month of Sundays to find out the color of the blossoms.

Here are my favorites, but to get the more out of them, plant in a highly organic soil:

Pansies and violas thrive in our winters. The large flowers come in blue, purple, rose, yellow and white, striped or with dramatic blotches. Violas lay close to the ground with blooms painted blues, reds, purples, whites, reds and yellows. Johnny-jump-ups look like miniature pansies with purple and yellow flowers. Use violas to cover the ground while waiting for your spring flowering bulbs to bloom.

Petunias are very showy annuals and so simple to grow. Flower colors will astound you in white, red, pink, blue, yellow, bicolors and every shade in between. New petunias in no way bear resemblance to the puny little bell-shaped flowers of yesteryear. Blooms are now broad, funnel-shaped and smooth, while others double their petals to resemble carnations. Even petal edges come frilled, fluffed, fluted or simply straight. Use petunias in borders, containers, hanging baskets or amass them in areas for a striking effect.

We associate garden mums with homecomings, pumpkins and the tang of fall air, but they hit your garden in full bloom and continue until a hard frost. Mums come in lusty yellows, zippy oranges, smoky purples, sandy tans, purest whites, pinks, lavenders — all autumn colors that end the blooming season in a blaze of glory. Use them as border plants, filling beds for sweeps of color, or plant in clumps. Enhance their show by planting in full sun.

Calendulas are stalwarts during winter and spring. Big daisylike orange-and-yellow flowers also come in cream-and-white shades, but plant in full sun to enrich colors even more. Historically, people dried them to flavor their soups and broths.

Stocks bloom in double or single forms, ranging from lavender to pink, purple, red and white. Augment their fragrance by planting in masses that become very noticeable at night. The plant attracts butterflies and bees.

Snapdragons are favorites for children, who pinch blossoms to make the "dragon mouth" open and close. Fragrant flowers grow on tall spikes in just about all colors. While they are hardy, they prefer temperatures in the 70s to produce blooms. They make great cut flowers.

Ornamental kale and cabbage are as showy as you can get when they are planted now to generate elephant-eared leaves. When Jack Frost paints them, their beauty will dominate all your conversation with friends. Strip hotels use them to lure people into their casinos. These beauties come either in off-white or deeply tinged pink, red or purple veins, especially toward the centers. Full sun really brings out the color.

Sweet peas become a winner, as they cover themselves with fragrant flowers. Looking like miniature sunbonnets, their fragrant flowers may be bicolored, striped or mottled, and come with ruffled, wavy flower petals. Show them off more on a trellis.

Candytufts plaster themselves with dense masses of white, pink, purple or crimson flowers. If they become rangy, shear back and new flowers will burst forth.

Sweet alyssums smoother themselves with colorful white, rose and lavender fragrant blooms. To get even more out of these small plants, allow them to tumble over walls, containers, hanging baskets and window boxes. They also fill in rock gardens, cover ground beneath taller plants and fill in between flagstones of walkways or in between bulbs until they come into bloom. Even beginning gardeners like them because they are easy to start and flourish in our weather.


October is for planting vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs and many other gardening activities to create a beautiful winter landscape. Join me for this free class for tips of things to do in October at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Preserve at 333 S. Valley View Blvd.

Linn Mills writes a gardening column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@springspreserve.org or call him at 822-7754.

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