Most of us are in a rut with the annuals we buy each year. The tempting arrays of brilliant color in the garden center draw us in and, in spite of the amazing varieties on display, we buy the same thing year after year.
Petunias, of course, impatiens for the shady spots, old faithful marigolds, portulaca for their host of colors, zinnias because they will grow anywhere, pansies early in the season and so on.
Now, is a good time to be adventurous. The prices are good now, and there are still some different flowers available that will give you color through August and September for a small outlay.
Torenia, or Wishbone flower, is interesting used as a border plant or edging. The plants grow to about 12 inches high. The small flowers have violet uppers and dark purple below, shaped rather like a snapdragon. The stamens look like a wishbone. New varieties come in pink, blue, white and burgundy. It will grow in sun or partial shade.
Nicotiana, or Flowering Tobacco, is worth growing for its beautiful scent and comes in many colors with trumpet-shaped flowers that grow in loose bunches. This plant reseeds freely, so once you have it established, you can expect seedlings to appear every year. Hummingbirds love nicotiana.
Monkey Flower, or mimulus, also bears a resemblence to a snapdragon. The yellow or red flowers are speckled with a contrasting color and are said to look like a monkey's face. They grow best in partial shade but will take some sun (though probably not the kind we are being treated to this summer).
If you enjoy dried flowers for winter arrangements, try growing some strawflower, or helichrysum. The flowers are stiff and papery and come in red, yellow, purple, pink or white.
To save them for winter display, cut before they are fully open and strip the leaves off the stems and then hang them upside down until dry.
An interesting plant that will last well into the winter is ornamental kale or cabbage. For most of the summer, they develop just like their vegetable cousins but, with cooler temperatures, they begin to color up and form open rosettes.
The whole plant looks like an enormous rose. They are unpredictable in their eventual color, but if you want pink and red look for that color in the stems. The seeds are difficult to germinate with specific cooling and light requirements, so it is best to leave that work to the experts, and buy
plants now in mid- or late summer.
Those are some suggestions. Take a good look around at what is available, and give some new annuals a try.