Grandma’s Favorite Annuals

Aug 7, 2016 | Gardens

I once read that when you see a plant described as “Grandma’s Favorite!” in a catalog or on a seed packet, you should know that what this really means is “The plant grandma liked before she discovered the more productive and easy to care for hybrids.”

There are some wonderful heirloom plants, of course, that deserve to be more widely grown. But there are also reasons that some of them got left in the dust. This year I discovered one such old-time favorite and learned why Grandma might not continue to grow it.

When I was planning my scheme for Annual Alley this year I knew that I’d include Tithonia roundifolia, Nicotiana sylvestris ‘Only the Lonely’, ‘Blue Horizon’ Ageratum, and ‘Victoria Blue’ Salvia. A few zinnias were also marked for inclusion, but I wanted some more white and yellow flowers, so I started some Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ and ‘Purity.’ Both of these got some sort of stunting problem as seedlings (Insect? Disease? I never figured it out.) so I quickly grew some heirloom marigolds that were supposed to be about the same height.

Baker Creek Seeds is known for unusual seeds and I’d ordered the variety of marigold called Harlequin along with some veggies. Harlequin did indeed get tall…it just didn’t bloom much.

I circled the marigold in this photo because otherwise you might miss it. Yes, that's pretty much how many flowers were on each marigold plant at any given point.

I circled the marigold in this photo because otherwise you might miss it. Yes, that’s pretty much how many flowers were on each marigold plant at any given point. The green Nicotiana you see in this photo are some of my “party crashers.” They weren’t invited, but they show up so colorfully dressed that I let some of them stay.

The problem was that I’d planted several of these Harlequin plants and they were not only not showy, they began to shade many of the other annuals.

Here is a shot of the opposite end of Annual Alley complete with very green marigold foliage.

Here is a shot of the opposite end of Annual Alley complete with very green marigold foliage. Thank goodness the nasturtiums were stepping up and providing their cheerful flowers.

So last week I decided that enough was enough, and I chopped all the heirloom marigolds in half. At best, this haircut might stimulate them to thicken and flower more. But if not, at least the surrounding annuals have more space and sunlight!

So last week I decided that enough was enough, and I chopped all the heirloom marigolds in half. At best, this haircut might stimulate them to thicken and flower more. But if not, at least the surrounding annuals have more space and sunlight! I think this trimming instantly improved the look of the garden.

heirlooms_shearing

Now the Ageratum and Salvia have a better chance to grow fuller, and the zinnias are more visible. Even the party-crashing lime Nicotiana seems happier.

 

I’m glad I grew Harlequin because now I know it. It won’t be invited to the party in Annual Alley again, however.

2 Comments

  1. Leslie Altman

    I once made the mistake of growing “heirloom” string beans. What made them “heirloom” is that they had strings that had to be removed. Never again.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      And we all love the taste of heirloom tomatoes but what the packets/catalogs/blogs don’t tell you is that they don’t produce as many fruits and they are SO prone to diseases…

      Reply

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