In the Garden: August Annuals and a Swell Book

The day lilies are almost over. The roses are pondering if they want to give me that great second bloom — possible, but not certain. The larkspur is so over, and my front garden is bleak: it features a weed, Queen Anne’s Lace. The perennial phlox is happy — for now. I figure I have another clove-scented week. The rudbekia hirta (aka Black Eyed Susans) are splendid, filling in the holes that the drooping coneflowers are leaving.

Why the heck didn’t I plant zinnias in May? In my early gardening life I sneered at zinnias, insufferable perennial snob that I was. August in the Midwest is annuals time, when all the classy perennials have wheezed. In the last few years I’ve grown to adore the sturdy prole zinnia that can grow big and tall, or short and silly. The color and size range of the zinnia is incomparable, and God! A cheap package of seeds planted in May guarantees glorious vulgar color in hot dry August. Cheap, tough and flashy: what’s not to love?

I did plant two other annual faves, nasturtiums and cosmos. As with zinnias, you cannot beat them with a stick if your want flowers in your Midwestern garden in August. My beloved Nasties:

I love the blossom, I love the leaves, and I love that it’s edible, every part of the plant. The leaves really do taste like watercress.

Cosmos are magic: so many varieties, all that fab palette from white through all the pinks into deep purple. And they’re tall and tough and have lovely lacy foliage. And geez, they always grow from seed.

Oh heck, when I get a chance to include the always wary Ajax in a post, I’ll do it.

If you’re a cheap and cheerful seed buying gardener , or even if you aren’t, you must buy this beautiful book: “A Garden From A Hundred Packets of Seeds.” It’s inspirational, poetic, helpful and, heaven help me, cheap and cheerful.C and C repeated for emphasis.



Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Growing things, Home, The Great Outdoors

6 responses to “In the Garden: August Annuals and a Swell Book

  1. I have a zinnia. One. Yellow. It’s the only result of nine seed packets planted in the round garden the day before the forty-days-of-rain which were June and what parts of July weren’t baking. When I finally saw one standing in the wilderness out there, I wept for joy.

    There’s grass. Knee-high grass which I wouldn’t let them mow for fear there were unbeknownst flowers in it.

    And herbs, which taste like themselves or grass or dog pee, take your pick (which I can’t really, for there’s all that grass).

    Zinnias are a good ole Bubba flower, hale and hearty, with a brash outlook and a proud bearing; they and hollyhocks and coleus are the Southern bare-yard trinity, grown in beds, manure piles and coffee cans on every saggy country porch of my youth.

    I love your garden, and I can tell it loves you. Especially what you say about it.

  2. Kim Shook

    I, too, sneered at zinnias in my youth. I believe that ‘Anne-with-an-E’ didn’t care for them and if Queen Anne disapproved, I slavishly went along. I was a grown up before I came to my senses and realized how prolific and cheerful (to borrow a word) they are. NOW, I admit that I am NOT a gardener. Probably won’t be much of one when I have more time to devote to it. I love a beautiful garden, but won’t put the necessary work into it. I have day lilies that have needed moving into a sunny section for at least 10 years. But I can put in zinnias. I wish I had. Will you please remind both of us next May?

    My cosmos and asters are looking sad and droopy. I don’t know if I’m watering too much or too little. At least I’ll have another chance next year with the asters. And I love your pink cosmos – I’m big on pink flowers!

  3. Kim Shook

    A question. The books looks lovely. How much use would it be for someone with almost all shade? Or am I doomed to a weeks worth of those little lilac bells on my hostas as my only ‘flowers’?

  4. Bill S

    I wasn’t much of a fan of either zinnias or hollyhocks when I was young. The latter grew, apparently self-seeded, around the foundation of an old chicken coop that was taken down when I was pretty young and in the untended no-man’s land between the driveway and the basement at the back of the century old farm house where I grew up. They seemed weeds to me at the time. Zinnias were intentionally planted in all colors around the edges of a vegetable garden. They did provide color, but in combinations that offended sensibilities I didn’t even know I had.

    Now, I love to see both, maybe partly because of where I most often see them. In August, I try to be in southern Ontario, places like Forest and Wiarton and Owen Sound, where the hollyhocks and zinnias are as likely to be in front of a century old, yellow brick house with fancy white woodwork in the older parts of town–usually a main street. They remind me of hot days in late summer at the end of a vacation season–but at the beginning of a new fall, going back to school, seeing old friends who were not available in the summer. Both have become favorites of mine–wish I had a garden in which to plant some…

    • Shade takes a different approach all right, and perennials like astible and lilies of the valley and violets seem to do better than annuals from seed, like impatiens or begonias. OTOH, you live so much further south than I do that you just may be able to grow them from seed. I’m pretty sure you’re right — Quenn Anne-With-an-E hated zinnias, and that probably colored my opinion for years.

      Bill, you made my eyes swim a little in memory of all those old farmhouses with the hollyhocks, including the McArthur house in Glencoe. I love hollyhocks and they’ve self-seeded for me until this year when I cleaned up the garden. They’re tall! They come in beautiful colors, and some are frilly. Like zinnias, they do well — indeed they thrive — in hot dry Augusts in farm country.

  5. kouign aman

    Nasturtiums are a spring flower here, and are withering from the dry come June.
    I do love them.
    Zinnias are such fun. We shall have to throw out some seeds on Xmas day and see what makes it to spring.

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