Planting combination for annual flowers

During my monthly broadcast on BBC Somerset this morning I mentioned a planting combination for annuals, grown easily from seed. The beauty of growing annuals is that you can try out different colour and texture combinations, without great expense, and you can try something new each year.

The planting mix that I have recommended will give height, texture and colour throughout the summer. It consists of just three (or four with a cheat) plants, Ammi majus, Agrostis nebulosa and Salvia farinacea Victoria.

Ammi majus (Bishop’s weed) is a posh and very dainty cow parsley with lacy white flowers on 3′ high stems. You can see this at the bottom of the photo above, mixed here with Geranium phaeum (this is Philip Nixon and Marcus Barnett’s 2006 Chelsea garden). Agrostis nebulosa’s common name is cloud grass, so named because its flowers are so airy that they resemble drifting clouds. These two are both quite diaphonous and wafty, and so need a bit of visual weight, provided by the Salvia. This has stiff, erect stems of bright purple-blue flowers (a little like the Salvia Caradonna that I planted in the Batcombe garden but more blue and without the red in the stems. There are some forms available with mixed blue and white flowers but don’t be tempted – you need a strong dose of colour to counterbalance the froth of the rest.

I did cheat a bit in the mix I suggested on the radio this morning by also suggesting you add in some Dianthus Carthusianorum (which goes by the wonderful common name of Blood of the Holy Virgin). This is a perennial plant, not an annual (ie it will come back each year) but I’ve included it as it’s one of those incredibly useful linking plants, by virtue of having small but shockingly pink flowers grouped together in clusters on tall stems. These are followed by dark brown seedheads that last well into the winter, which also makes it a great companion for ornamental grasses.

This photo shows Dianthus carthusianorum growing in the meadow-steppe of Transylvania (see January blog for more on Transylvania)

The Salvia should be commonly available and Sarah Raven currently has stock of the Ammi majus and Agrostis nebulosa on her website If you like the mix but not the bother, you can order all of them as plants from Crocus