by Yvette Henson
Sweet Annie, Artemisia annua
Sweet Annie photo credit Johnnyseeds.com
Once established in your garden, Sweet Annie is a politely re-seeding cool-season annual with a wonderful sweet and tangy fragrance to the foliage and flowers. You can sew them outdoors a few weeks before the last frost in the spring but be patient—they can take a little while to germinate. Sweet Annie is most commonly grown for the foliage to use as a base for wreaths. It can grow quite tall (up to 6’ tall and 3’ wide) but it stays around 3’ in my cooler, higher elevation garden. It will be shorter grown from transplants than from seed. It needs sun and well-drained soil. It should be harvested when the small yellow flowers just begin to open. If you wait too long, they will shatter and make a mess.
Globe amaranth, Gomphrena globosa
Orange globe amaranth photo credit mountainlilyfarm.com
Globe amaranth is the only warm season annual that I included in this blog. It is an old fashioned flower that makes a good bedding plant, cut flower and dried flower. The most common colors are a range of pinks and purples but they come in whites, oranges and reds. Given sunny and warm conditions, they grow quickly to 1-3’, depending on the variety. They need medium to dry well-drained soil. If they are planted close together, they may grow longer stems. They dry best hung upside down in a shady, well-ventilated location. If dried upright in a vase, the flower stem may bend near the head.
Love-in-a-mist, Nigela damascena
Love-in-a-mist photo credit monicelloshop.org
Love-in-a-mist is a cool-season annual with white, blue and pink flowers. It grows 1.5 -2’ tall and wide. It likes well-drained, medium-moist soil and full sun. The flowers, feathery foliage and seed pods make great cut flowers. The bristly, beige, inflated seed heads dry better than the flowers but the flowers can be dried too. Their color will fade slightly when dry.
Painted sage, Salvia viridis (syn. Salvia horminum)
Painted sage photo credit Trade Winds Fruit
Painted sage or annual clary sage is a hardy annual that prefers well-drained soil and full sun to part shade. It grows upright to 2’x1’. The showy white, pink or purple parts of the inflorescence are actually colored bracts that hold long after the tiny flowers are spent. It is a lovely cut flower and dries well.
Bells of Ireland, Molucella laevis
Bells of Ireland photo credit seedsavers.org
Bells of Ireland is a half-hardy annual that grows better from seed than transplants. Plant seed early in the spring when the ground is still cool. It grows upright 2-3’x1’ wide. It prefers moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil and full sun to part shade. The showy parts of the inflorescence are the green calyxes. They will retain their color when drying if placed upright in a vase filled with only 1 inch or so of water. This allows a slow dry down as the water is used up. Also, when you cut the stem, before placing it in the water, singe it with a match flame to prevent the sticky sap from blocking its ability to take up water.
After writing this blog, I want to grow every one of these this summer! Most of the seeds can be found wherever seeds are sold.