Heirloom Annuals

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Bachelors Buttons are an old favorite with the most intense blue color

Old timey annuals are back in! Pushed to the side for many years in favor of newer, supposedly better cultivars, I always remember growing these as a child and seeing them in my parents garden. I couldn’t wait to squeeze the snapdragon flowers to make the “mouth” open like a dragon when I was little. Or being fascinated by the pansy faces that I grew and pressing them between the pages of a phone book.

Pansy flower
Violas in a container

With all the new intros of flowers, people forget the old-fashioned flowers that our grandmothers grew and enjoyed. ‘Flowers with a past’, or ‘flowers with history’ intrigue me even in the face of the slant in favor of perennials in recent years. So many people when they hear that a plant is an annual dismiss it as not worth the time and money to plant. But even in a garden of plant snobs, there is room for a diverse choice of antique flowers.

Rarely seen anymore, Balsam flower is extremely easy to grow
Rarely seen anymore, Balsam flower is extremely easy to grow

Never having given up on clarkia, cleome, calendula, cornflower, and cosmos, I have never stopped growing these neglected blooms and invite other flower lovers embrace them as well. Neglected but not forgotten, all these flowers should be planted and enjoyed by another generation.

Edible Nasturtiums are easy to grow
Nasturtiums
Nasturtiums

Heirloom annuals are plants that have been cultivated for at least one hundred years, and some for much longer. Unimproved flowers that hybridizers haven’t got their hands on, antique annuals bloom profusely all season long and set seed so that you can collect them to flower for another year. Even better, many reseed to continue growing for the next season. Many are tall and graceful, not short and stocky hybrids that fit into containers and smaller gardens that are more prevalent today.

Sticky cleome is native to South America and looks spidery, hence its common name, Spider Flower
Sticky Cleome is native to South America and looks spidery, hence its common name, Spider Flower

Difficult to have something in bloom all season long, a perennial border is just shouting out to have annuals inserted in empty spots so you can have a constant parade of blooms.

Cosmos at Falkland Place in Scotland
Beautiful ruffled Cosmos at Falkland Place in Scotland
Sweet Peas at Falkland Palace in Scotland
Sweet Peas at Falkland Palace in Scotland
Closeup of Sweet Pea
Closeup of Sweet Pea

Perennial purists who will not allow an annual to cross through their garden gate are missing out on the dizzying palette of flowers that flower and die in one season. Perennial is a term that can be interpreted several ways. I have some short-lived perennials that only last two or three seasons, like lavender. The drainage issue always does this picky perennial in. So, the term perennial could mean – lasts for many seasons, like a peony… or perennial for a few seasons, like some of the new Echinaceas. Echinaceas don’t seem to last very long at all and yet they are called perennials.

I love all the new Echinaceas, but they seem to last only a couple of seasons
Poppies are one of my favorite annuals
Poppies are one of my favorite old fashioned annuals
Blue poppy
Blue Poppy

When most perennials are on their last gasp in late summer, many annuals are still running strong with little care. A bit of dead heading, sometimes staking, and an infusion of fertilizer is enough to keep them in good form all summer. Some annuals like Poppies, Love in a Mist, Bells of Ireland, Clarkia, and Larkspur are definitely cool weather plants finished by June. See my post on Cool Season Annuals.

Purple Larkspur makes a fine foil for pink Poppies
Cool season Bells of Ireland
Cool season Bells of Ireland
Unusual on the east coast, Clarkia is an annual that does better on the west coast
Love in a Mist is aptly named
Dried seed pods of Nigella or Love in a Mist

Cultivated for thousands of years in the Americas, Zinnias are a true antique classic. According to Burpee’s website, “Zinnias are undemanding annuals that simply need full sun, warmth, and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. If soil is poor, incorporate lots of compost or leaf mold”. Like many old-fashioned annuals, Zinnias do better sown directly into the garden instead of being transplanted.

Zinnias draw butterflies

Plumed Celosias are bursting with new cultivars but I really like to grow the unique Crested Celosia. I love the brain-like texture of the velvety bloom and it dries beautifully.

Good for drying, crested celosia has a fascinating bloom
Good for drying, Crested Celosia has a fascinating bloom

Blue Lace Flower
Blue Lace Flower

Blue Lace Flower, Trachymeme coerulea, resembles a purple Queen Anne’s Lace and would look good in a cottage style garden border. Coming from Australia in 1828, you can find this plant reseeding year after year into beds without any special care. Great for cutting and bringing into the house like many heirlooms, arranging with any of these long-stemmed flowers is a delight.

Larkspur and snapdragons from the garden make a fine arrangement
Larkspur and snapdragons from the garden make a fine arrangement
Annie's Annuals is a nursery that specializes in Heirloom annuals; this is one of their demo gardens
Annie’s Annuals in San Francisco is a nursery that specializes in Heirloom annuals; this is one of their demo gardens

All of these heirlooms draw pollinators in droves to their open faced flowers, with easily available pollen and nectar. To see more plants and flowers that attract pollinators, go to Plant These For Bees.

Plant These For The Bees poster available on Etsy
Mexican Sunflower is a butterfly magnet and easy for butterflies to nectar from
False Queen Anne’s Lace or Ammi majus is a great filler flower for arrangements
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A great cottage border of heirlooms Zinnias and Verbena
Love Lies Bleeding or Amaranthus
An arrangement with Bells of Ireland and Love Lies Bleeding

Heirloom Annuals

False Queen Anne’s Lace, Ammi majus

Hollyhock, Alcea rosea

Clarkia

Love Lies Bleeding, Amaranthus

Spider Flower,  Cleome

Snapdragon, Antirrhinum

Larkspur, Consolida

Cosmos

Sunflower, Helianthus

Globe Amaranth, Gomphrena

Heliotrope

Balsam, Impatiens balsamina

Sweet Pea, Lathyrus

Four O’Clock, Mirabilis

Pansy and Viola

Lobelia

Flowering Tobacco, Nictotiana

Love in a Mist, Nigella

Poppy, Papaver

Dusty Miller, Senecio

Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia

Blue Lace Flower, Trachymene coerulea

Zinnia

Verbena, Verbena bonariensis

Calendula, Pot Marigold

Petunias

 

Dried Flowers 101

After each growing season in my garden, I assess what I grew, making up a wish list of new things to grow for next year. Planning what new varieties to try is half the fun of gardening! But this time I am going back to growing some old varieties that have fallen out of fashion that I haven’t grown for years, and these include everlastings or dried flowers.

Steely blue Sea Hollies come in all sizes; these seen in Oregon
Steely blue Sea Hollies come in all sizes; these seen in Oregon
A larger variety of Sea Holly
A larger variety of Sea Holly

Air drying flowers or everlastings is simple and a great way to preserve your flower harvest for months to come. Knowing the correct varieties that dry well is key to successfully drying your blooms. I have dried flowers on and off for years; this was in vogue in the 70’s and 80’s and I have noticed a resurgence of interest, but people aren’t sure about which flowers are suitable.

A small colorful dried arrangement
A small colorful dried arrangement

After a recent visit to Priorwood Gardens in Scotland which is known for their dried flower culture and gardens, I was inspired to try this old craft again. Priorwood is a specialist center for the craft of dried flower arranging and has a dedicated drying room.

Priorwood Gardens in Scotland has dried flowers from their gardens for centuries
Priorwood Gardens in Scotland has had dried flowers from their gardens for centuries

A delightful historic walled garden in the Scottish Borders in Melrose, Priorwood is a rustic walled garden where the plants grown are selected for their suitability for drying.  Maintained by the National Trust for Scotland, Priorwood is a delight to visit to learn about drying varieties and methods.

The shop at Priorwood Gardens is decorated with drieds
The shop at Priorwood Gardens is decorated with drieds
Priorwood Gardens entrance
Priorwood Gardens entrance

Brimming with old-fashioned flowers such as Strawflowers, Teasels, Cardoon, Ammobium, Statice, Love in a Mist, Pearly Everlasting, and Yarrow, I walked the pathways identifying the ones that I recognized.

A large swath of white Pearly Everlasting at Priorwood Gardens
A large swath of white Pearly Everlasting at Priorwood Gardens
Yarrow is an outstanding dried flower; the rose color will fade to a light pink
Yarrow is an outstanding dried flower; the rose color will fade to a light pink

If you are an Outlander fan, I visited Claire’s herb garden in Culross, Scotland where many drieds and herbs are grown also. In the Outlander show Claire walks the pathways gathering medicinal herbs for preserving in her medical practice in 18th century Scotland. Most flowers are fleeting but preserving them by drying extends the beauty and usefulness of them.

Culross Palace in Scotland is the location of Claire's Outlander herb garden; here Teasels are shown
Culross Palace in Scotland is the location of Claire’s Outlander herb garden; here Teasels are shown
Claire's Outlander herb garden is neatly divided by gravel pathways
Claire’s Outlander herb garden is neatly divided by gravel pathways
Culross Palace gardens where scenes from Outlander were filmed
Culross Palace gardens
Rose Hips dry beautifully
Rose Hips dry beautifully
Poppy seed heads dry nicely
Poppy seed heads dry perfectly

 

Dried flower arrangements last for months
Dried flower arrangements last for months

Steps to Perfect Dried Flowers

  1. Choose flowers that are not completely open as they will continue to open through the drying process.

  2. Cut flowers in the morning, after the dew has dried using sharp sheers.

  3. Strip off all foliage.

  4. Group flowers into small bundles and gather together with rubber bands. This allows the rubber band to contract and not lose its grip as the stems shrink.

  5. Hang upside down in a cool, dark, dry, indoor spot where air can circulate.

  6. When flowers are done drying, they will feel dry and stiff to the touch. This may take several days or several weeks, depending on conditions and the type of flowers.

    Hanging bunches of flower upside down to dry
    Hanging bunches of flower upside down to dry
    Claire's Outlander garden in Culross, Scotland, where many herbs and dried flowers are grown
    Claire’s Outlander garden in Culross, Scotland, where many herbs and dried flowers are grown
    Strawflower
    Strawflower
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    Strawflower
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    Strawflower

     

    Everlastings to grow for drying

    • Sea Holly(Eryngium ) – perennial

    • Winged Everlasting (Ammobium alatum) – annual

    • Chinese Lantern (Physalis alkekengi) – perennial (seed pods)

    • Artemesia – perennial

    • Hydrangea- perennial

    • Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata) – annual or perennial

    • Sweet Annie (Artemesia annua) – perennial

    • Cockscomb (Celosia cristata) – annual

    • Bells-Of-Ireland (Moluccella laevis) – annual

    • Love in a Mist (Nigella damascena) – annual (primarily the seed pods)

    • Money Plant or Honesty (Lunaria annua) – biennial

    • Yarrow(Achillea spp.) – perennial – perennial

    • Strawflowers (Helichrysum bracteatum) – annual

    • Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) – annual; go to Plant Geek Alert

    • Statice(Limonium spp.) – perennial and annual

    • Bachelor’s Buttons or Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) – annual

    • Lavender (Lavandula spp.) – perennial

    • Roses (Rosa spp.) – perennial/shrub, flowers and hips (fruit)

    • Peony-perennial

    • Tansy-perennial

      Bachelors buttons
      Bachelors Buttons

      nigella
      Nigella or Love in the mist is grown for its seed pods

      Statice for sale at Farmers market in Germany
      Statice for sale at Farmers market in Germany
Ammobium is a wonderful dried, easy to grow, and dries exactly as it looks
Ammobium is a wonderful dried, easy to grow, and dries exactly as it looks
Tansy flowers are button like orbs that have brown edges as they age
Tansy flowers are button like orbs that have brown edges as they age
Wait until hydrangea blooms turn leathery to the touch and then put them into a vase of water and keep there until all the water is gone
Wait until hydrangea blooms turn leathery to the touch and then put them into a vase of water and keep there until all the water is gone
Bunch up your lavender bundles with rubber bands and hang to dry
Bunch up your lavender bundles with rubber bands and hang to dry