Annuals: The Best Kinds and How to Grow Them

At every Board Meeting we start with a "Bailey Moment". This is from our May meeting.


“The kinds I like best are the ones easiest to grow. My personal equation, I suppose, determines this. Zinnias, petunias, marigold, four-o-clock, sunflower, phlox, scabiosa, sweet sultan, bachelor’s buttons, verbena, calendula, calliopsis, morning-glory, nasturtium, sweet pea-these are some of the kinds that are surest, and least attacked by bugs and fungi. I do not know where the investment of five cents will bring as great reward as in a packet of seeds of any of these plants.

Before one sets out to grow these or any other plants he must make for himself an ideal. Will he grow for a garden effect, or for specimen plants or specimen blooms? If for specimens, then each plant muse have plenty of room and receive particular individual care. If for garden effect, then see to it that the entire space is solidly covered, and that you have a continuous maze of color. Usually the specimen plants would best be grown in a side garden, as vegetables are, where they can be tilled, trained, and severally cared for.

There is really a third ideal, and I hope that some of you may try it-to grow all varieties of one species. You really do not know what the China aster or the balsam is until you have seen all the kinds of it. Suppose that you ask your seedsman to send you one packet of every variety of cockscomb that he has. Next year you may want to try stocks or annual poppies, or something else. All this will be a study in evolution.

There is still a fourth ideal—the growing for gathering or “picking”. If you want many flowers for house decoration and to give away, then grow them at one side in regular rows as you would potatoes or sweet corn. Cultivate them by horse-or wheel-hoe. Harvest them in the same spirit that you would harvest string beans or tomatoes; that is what they are for. You do not have to consider the “looks” of your garden. You will not be afraid to pick them. The old stalks will remain, as the stumps of cabbages do. When you have harvested an armful your garden is not despoiled.”

excerpt from The Liberty Hyde Bailey Gardener’s Companion, Annuals: The Best Kinds and How to Grow Them, pp. 113-114.

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