The Tuckshop Garden is waiting for the tide of summer to turn and for the ever bushier perennials to  launch into September’s firework display of shocking pink asters, bright yellow rudbeckias and the sunbursts of burnt orange chrysanthemums.

This week in the garden,  brown stems of faded alliums and glaucous poppy heads have been plucked out for drying with a view to Christmas wreath making workshops in the short, cold days which lurk a few months down the track.

But down at the other plot, where the annuals  reign supreme, it is glorious summer – annuals revel in the open beds and sunshine, free from their tyrannical perennial cousins crowding them out of the patch.

Locally grown flowers, British flowers. Birmingham. Tuckshop Flowers
Flowers growing happily in a this year’s rather patchy English summer.

Cerise corncockles and sunny-centred cosmos in deep pinks and frilly whites flourish in happy highways alongside the knobbly spires of bubblegum scented snapdragons and Cadbury purple salvias.  This happy crowd of annual flowers is the stalwart of summer flower growing – the cheery, easygoing crowd-pleasers sown as seeds in March, April and May when  summer was still a distant glimmer on the horizon.  They give, and they give, and they give again. Cutting  simply makes them even more eager to flower as it is  serves the same purpose as deadheading: they throw up even more flowering sideshoots to fulfil their raison d’etre – to replace the casualties with more flowers in order to set seeds and reproduce.  And boy do they want to reproduce.  A row of annuals will give you buckets of blooms over the course of a few weeks.

When novice gardeners look crestfallen on hearing that an annual plant won’t survive the winter and perform all over again next year, I try to persuade them that the mass of blooms for the vase, the packets of seeds that can be harvested late season and the sheer joy of watching the floral variety show more than compensates for their lack of longevity.  But you can tell from the slump in their shoulders and the slight turn away that they’re only really interested in a long-term relationship. For these faithful types, in the right spot, you may welcome the return of the mini bottle brush blooms of a shrub like hebe for a few years, a delphinium may come back if the slugs don’t get it, and a conifer will certainly sit in your garden all year round, slowly reaching for the sky or staying dwarfish in its pot.  But none of these will give you the quick(ish) thrill of seeing potential unfold in a super slo-mo timelapse over the course of a spring and summer.  Neither will shrubs and perennials give you buckets of flowers for cutting like the noisy, generous annuals whose abundance comes from one, often inexpensive, packet of seeds.

Seed lists, catalogues and websites (especially those of the very entertaining Mr Higgeldy*)  keep me dreaming through the dark end of the year, plotting and scheming on behalf of brides for the forthcoming year. Annuals make me itch for spring during the winter months, desperate for the days to lengthen and for the seed trays to come out of hibernation. When they do, and the flowers hit their current peak during July and August, it is definitely a fanfare worth waiting for.  And of course, there is always the joy of choosing which ones you’re going to have a go at for a spot of August and September sowing…

To help me choose wisely, it would be good to book your wedding consultations in the next few weeks before I get carried away and the greenhouse gets full again!



*This endorsement is not solicited, paid for or rewarded in any way – it is purely from my own positive experience of using this service and product.

Short and sweet: the life of annuals
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