- Choose shade-tolerant or shade-loving annuals for a lightly shaded garden. Among the annuals that prefer shade are impatiens, browallia, and torenia. Other annuals, the most versatile of the bunch, will grow in sun or light shade. They include wax begonias, sweet alyssum, ageratum, coleus, forget-me-nots, and pansies.
- In informal gardens, plant nonhybrid annuals that may return from self-sown seeds allowed to mature and fall to the ground. Suitable annuals include the heirlooms love-lies-bleeding and kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate; wildflowers such as cornflowers, California poppies, and verbenas; and open-pollinated annuals such as snapdragons, portulaca, cockscomb, and spider flowers.
When selecting annuals and biennials,
choose plants with bright green foliage.
- Leaf color: The foliage of naturally green-leafed plants should be bright green, not faded yellow or scorched bronze or brown.
- Plant shape: The sturdiest seedlings will be compact, with short stretches of stem between sets of leaves. Slenderness may be an admirable quality on high-fashion models, but a lanky, skinny seedling is weaker and less desirable than a short, stocky one.
- Pests: If you shake the plant, no insects should come fluttering off. Inspect the stem tips and flower buds for aphids, small pear-shaped sap suckers. Look for hidden pests by turning the plant upside down and looking under the leaves and along the stem.
An annual with ideal roots will have filled out its potting soil
without growing cramped. When roots are overcrowded, the plant is
root-bound -- the roots have consumed all soil space and grown tangled
and ineffective. The best way to judge root quality is to pop a plant
out of its container (or ask a sales clerk to do this) and check to see
how matted the roots have become.
Heirloom flowers are flowers your ancestors may have enjoyed. Some heirlooms are only slightly different from modern flowers -- taller, larger- or smaller-flowered, or more fragrant. But other heirlooms are quite distinct and unusual. Here are some examples:
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