If I Could Only Grow One Annual Next Year, It Would Be…

Well, I thought it would be the annual that’s the subject of this blog post but then I thought about it again and actually, that would be a lie. If I could only grow one annual next year and every year thereafter, it would be sweet peas. I can’t get enough if them, they’re the best, bar none.

A distant second, but second nonetheless, would be Mignonette. I grew it for the first time this year (or rather, I got our lovely local growers to grow it for me) and it was a slow-burner but I ended up loving it. I grew it firstly for the scent, which is gorgeous, by reputation. I also grew it because my grandmother’s name is Mignonette, which is an amazing name. For some unfathomable reason she has detested it all her 91 years and insists on being called by her middle name, Margaret. As it happened, nobody seemed to take up Margaret as readily as she might have liked and she’s had more nicknames than I’ve had hot dinners; Dink, Dinkie, Dinkie Di-Do, Dido, Di, Big, Biggie (my grandad being funny), Maggie and so on and so on. I bet she wishes in hindsight she’d stuck with Mignonette.

The plant I grew this year was Reseda odorata. It’s an unassuming little plant, about 30-40cm in height and a bit of a slow-starter. Due to the cold spring, it took an age to get away but when it did, it bulked up well and started to look properly bushy and verdant. The flowerheads are fairly non-descript when viewed from a distance but when you inspect them close-up you can can see their intricately detailed construction. The creamy-white flowers have an almost grubby look to them and their middles are the colour of orange Iced Gems, definitely not the most beautiful plant you’ll stumble across in the garden, but it holds it’s overall shape and looks fresh all summer long.

Reseda odorata is grown for its scent, which has been used in perfume-making and to mask grotty smells for centuries. The sweetie theme continues as the flowers smell just like Parma Violets, it’s extremely strong if you stick your nose in it. And it obviously drives the bees and hoverflies wild as the plants were covered in pollinators all summer long.

They completely ignored the lavender bushes right beside it that were in full flower and contented themselves with gorging on the Mignonette. This fact alone makes it worth planting and I can’t wait to add some to the borders next year. I’ve collected seed from some of my plants so fingers crossed I’ll have plenty to plant. I also purchased some more seed from Chiltern Seeds; ameliorata and grandiflora so I’ll be reporting back on the differences between the two. I’m also going to try Reseda luteola, also known as Weld or Dyer’s Rocket, which has been used historically as a natural dye. I doubt I’ll be getting that creative with it, but I’ll be interested to see if it’s as popular with the local insects as odorata.

So that’s my top pick of the annuals for 2019. If you’re choosing plants for your borders and containers next year and you find the subject of plant life cycles a bit baffling, I recorded a Budcast about them. A plant’s life cycle will dictate how and when it will perform in your garden but it can be a tricky subject to get to grips with. I explain the difference between annuals, perennials, biennials, etc. to help you select the right plant first time. You can listen to it here.

Thanks for reading, and please let me know in the comments section which plants you’re looking forward to trying out next year.

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