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The great seed-grown annual show


Me in February: I’m going to grow an entire garden from seed this year! I will grow all the things I’ve grown in the past and add in at least 20 new varieties because I am a seed-starting machine! And I definitely need to grow a whole flat of everything because I need backups if something doesn’t grow. I love my seeds. Ooh, aren’t these little babies cute? Here, let me pet you and watch you grow. Is the temperature OK for you? How about the light? Do you all feel sufficiently moist but not wet? Is there anything I can do for you, dear seedlings, to make your stay under my grow lights more comfortable?

Also me, but in late April (after tripping over trays of plants): What the hell was I thinking? I can’t even get to the damn dryer. Do they need water again? I just watered them yesterday! These plants need to get outside or I’m going to lose my mind. I’m never growing this much from seed again!

It’s true: Seed-starting Erin is a much happier person than seed-finishing Erin. But the happiest Erin is mid-summer Erin.

(I will now stop speaking in the third person so you don’t think I’m nuts.)

The point is, when I look around my garden and see wonderful plants, many of which I couldn’t buy if I wanted to, I am reminded of why I love to grow things from seed. Right now is when all that tending pays off.

annuals from seed
A corner of the garden shows off a number of annuals grown from seed: chartreuse Nicotiana, nasturtiums and the seedheads from bread seed poppies, which look great even after they bloom and are the easiest seed to collect.

I’ve been growing Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ from seed for ages and I plant it all over the garden. It’s become such a signature plant in my garden that I don’t know I’d recognize it without that plant. It self seeds, but never where I want it to so I grow it every year. I also grew Nicotiana langsdorfii this year, which has tiny tubular flowers that are a little more understated.

For a bold splash of color I couldn’t have done better than ‘Tangerine Gem’ signet marigold. In the past I’ve grown ‘Lemon Gem’ but I think I prefer this true orange variety. Both seem to flower nonstop. 

signet marigold
‘Tangerine Gem’ shines bright.

Ageratum, which mingles well with ‘Tangerine Gem’ above, offers a cool note in the garden. It seems to bloom almost nonstop.

Ageratum, in front, offers a cool tone in the garden. Here it plays equally well with ‘Wild Magic’ basil, which is not grown from seed.

Tithonia ‘Torch’ is growing in various places around the garden including in this pot tucked in the garden on the north side of the house. ‘Konstance’ marigold grows around the edge of the pot.

Mexican sunflower

It looks beautiful even after the petals fade from the Tithonia blooms.


Speaking of bright hues, ‘Big Duck Gold’ marigold, an All-American Selections winner, is doing exactly what I expected it too: being a gorgeous, gaudy statement.

Big duck gold marigold

I grew Cerinthe, aka honeywort, for the first time this year and although it took its time getting going it was a worthwhile effort. I’ve planted it in big clumps around the garden and the succulent looking foliage and small purple flowers are so interesting, not to mention a huge draw for honey bees.


Although it’s a biennial, or even a short-lived perennial in some gardens, I’m including Salvia argentea in this roundup. It has out performed all expectations and I just love this mount of fuzzy, silver, bold foliage growing along the path.

Salvia argentea

I love experimenting with annual vines and this year I’m growing two that are showing off their foliage if not their flowers so far. Cup and saucer vine is the first vine I’ve ever planted in these deck containers that has gotten tall enough to actually start flopping over the pergola. No sign of flowers yet, but I think I may see some soon now that we’re in the heat of summer.

Cup and saucer vine

Hyacinth bean is by far the best looking thing in an otherwise unexciting container by the garage.

hyacinth bean

Look, a little flower!

I’m also having my best sweet pea year ever. Every other day I pick a big handful of them from plantings in the main garden as well as in the cutting beds in the vegetable garden.

Even the gomphrena, a plant I struggle with some years, is really coming into its own. 

Yes, it is a lot of work to grow all those annuals from seed, but without them I’d never be able to pack the garden full of so much color. Someone needs to tell late April Erin not to be so grumpy, because it’s all worth it.

Annual border

19 Responses

  1. I’d welcome your advice as I’m an allotment owner, deciding to allocate areas for flowers. I have a 3m square newly dug up area, which I want to make the most use of. I’m growing from seed too, and had the same panic buy moment that you had. I have two kinds of Cosmos, some Poppies, two kinds of Calendula, red evening primroses, sweet peas, and ranunculus bulbs, and a peony, which I hope makes it! I wanted to have a dedicated area for flowers but now I’m thinking maybe I can jazz up the veg with some colour.
    I’m attempting to grow from seed, leeks, tomatoes, parsnips, carrots, cabbages, broccoli, peas, broad beans, and Lettuces. I’ve also used old sprouting potatoes from supermarket and trying them too. I have a colour plan of the plot, and what I hope it will look like, eventually.

  2. Just sowed Nicotiana Alata grandiflora today. Yes, very late for coastal NC but I can’t stop ordering seeds. Now that I see your chartreuse variety, that is on my list for next year…..or maybe this year…hmmmm!

  3. Love this!! So helpful! Last year was my first time planting anything from seed. My first veggie garden and planted zinnias. Omg…zinnias were pretty and so easy and pretty much carefree so looking to expanding and trying these as well. Thanks Erin!
    (zone 4b)

  4. Thank you for mentioning AAS in your Great Seed Grown Annual Show. We appreciate your support. And the photos are awesome. Beautiful displays.

  5. Wonderful post! Well I know what I’m doing in the basement next spring… I usually start way too many Veg and herbs – and way too early, but you’ve inspired me to focus on flowers next year. I always have success with giant zinnias and tithonia but have not attempted much else. Question: any of your seeded annuals suffer from Japanese beetle damage? In particular the climbers?

  6. Your sweet peas are amazing! Just lovely. We have a Sweet Pea Festival here (Bozeman MT if you want to look it up). It’s a celebration of all the arts but there is a flower show tent and you should smell that on a warm August day! I usually end up with a handful of average sweet peas myself but I keep trying!!

  7. I couldn’t do what you do because 1. My cat would get into all of the plants and 2. I am too lazy, but I really want that Salvia argentea! Thanks for sharing! I hope you will do a veggie garden video update soon.

  8. Thank you for sharing with us; I always look forward to your posts and photos. I am a LOUSY seed grower but you inspire me to keep trying. Like Susan I have great difficulty with the Sweet Peas but ended up with little clump that has reached adolescence- hoping to get a few flowers soon.
    That Salvia Argentea is just wonderful – where did you find that seed?

  9. The bed of annuals by the house is stunning. Love love love that window box. I too get tired of the little seedlings and how much care they need, but I grew petunias this year from seed I harvested last year, also pansies and they seem even better than bought seeds. Very satisfying.
    Thenks for your posts and videos, I look forward to them.

  10. This is my annual sigh of ‘why don’t I do this’. Oh I know…I am too lazy. It all looks beautiful! Well done.

  11. So great seeing these plants after following your Instagram stories and watching you start them from seed. That fuzzy grey leaved plant is one I want to try next season. That’s a beauty. Everything looks fantastic. So fun to see these photos. Thanks for sharing them.

    Kind regards,

  12. I love your blog and you have inspired me to grow new dahlias, starting 25 pots of them in the house in late March (I am in New Hampshire). They started blooming in June and I am a happy camper, despite the Asian beetles that seem to be attracted to yellow. I CANNOT grow sweet peas for the life of me! I have used Floret Flowers’ seed 3 times, sometimes starting inside, sometimes planting in cold and also too warm weather. I get a handful of lousy plants. I am going to look closer at this issue of your blog since I love some of the things you grow with which I am not familiar. Thank you!

  13. Beautiful. Every bit as good, no, much better, than any book or mag spread I’ve seen. Have you considered writing a book from your posts? I have learned so much from you and bought all the things you have recommended. And very happy with all but that crazy expensive hose which was too heavy for me. Anyways, love your blog and always look forward to pix from your garden.

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