Pata Pata

To accompany this post about my cutting patch, I suggest you have a little soundtrack of  Pata Pata by Miriam Mikeba.  This song expresses perfectly how it feels to be waking up to warm temperatures, blue skies and new flowers!

I extended my cutting patch this year.  Well, Stevie extended it.  I already had one raised bed in which I’ve grown dahlias for the last three summers.  I got greedy and wanted more.  Stevie obliged.

Borage wins the prize for being the most rambunctious annual I have ever grown.

Cosmos and Borage
Cosmos and Borage

I always thought Nicotiana were impressive with their speed of growth.  They go from hundreds-and-thousands seedlings to outgrowing their first pots in about four weeks.  Borage are the same, but they also have armour-plating.  Where Nicotiana are soft and sappy, Borage has tough old leaves, which are hard and bumpy to the touch.  Like a tortoise shell.  Or a knee scab that is just ready to be picked.  If you want a bomb-proof batch of seedlings, Borage is for you.

Borage (2)
Borage (Nicotiana behind)

These plants are now at chin-level, and spilling out of the cutting patch.  It’s a tidal wave.  At the crest of the wave, they have a spume of delicate, diaphanous flowers:

Borage (3)

The flowers drop, as whole stars, and can be sprinkled on salads or frozen in ice-cubes if you are having a Sarah Raven lifestyle moment.

The next into flower was the almost-as-exuberant Nicotiana ‘Sensation’.  This is a mix of shades with whites, purples, magentas, and some disconcerting white flesh tones.  Yes, I know that doesn’t sound attractive.  It is the colour of hospital corridors.  I am trying to see it as ‘Peach Parfait’ but really it is clogged foundation.

Now you want to see it, don’t you?  It even has a tide-mark down the centre of each petal.

Nictotiana ‘Sensation’

Now I feel a bit mean.  Sorry Nicotiana.

There are some plants where the colour is sun-bleached:

Nicotiana (3)
Nicotiana ‘Sensation’

And some have fully-saturated colour.  This one has added sparkle:

Nicotiana (5)
Nicotiana ‘Sensation’; magenta form

I generally prefer to plant in blocks of colour, and avoid anything with ‘mixed’ in the name.  But I couldn’t find any solely purple Nicotiana from Chiltern Seeds this year (hint for next year, maybe?!)

Nicotiana get very tall, and are a bit floppy, so I have trussed them with some canes and string, and hopefully, they will not burst their belt.  It is a good idea to thin the stems by cutting them for arrangements (this is a cutting patch, after all) but I have been busy with my roses.  Also Nicotiana have sticky stems, which I find a bit icky when handling, but I will ‘girl up’ and get on with it this week.

Oh, I should also say, the scent is heavenly, and attracts moths.  This is where the white-flesh ones do come in, because they shine at night.  ‘Limelight’ is also a brilliant choice, being palest green. Grow Nicotiana where you might sit out late, and you can have scent and moths.  Don’t worry.  Moths are sensible around Nicotiana.  None of that silly flailing in the flame of a candle.

Another really easy annual to grow from seed is Cosmos.  These ones, Cosmos bipinatus ‘Double Click Cranberries’, germinated in two days!  A record!  They don’t ever give me a moment’s worry.  They are like the easy child in a family.  They are blessed with a sunny disposition and a strong constitution.

Cosmos bipinatus 'Double Click Cranberries' (2)
Cosmos bipinatus ‘Double Click Cranberries’

Cosmos bipinatus ‘Xanthos’ is just as easy.  These were the first to flower.  They are shorter than many Cosmos, so perfect for pots.  I love the way the petals are rolled into a little cone.

Cosmos bipinatus 'Xanthos' (2)
Cosmos bipinatus ‘Xanthos’

Occasionally flowers do weird things.  Cosmos seem particularly prone to zaniness.  I’ve had double-headed flowers, flowers where there is only one petal (as in Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’) and now I have a widescreen Cosmos.  Borage is glued to the screen.

widescreen Cosmos
widescreen Cosmos

However, my biggest excitement this week has been the first Zinnias.  I’ve only grown Zinnias once before, and I remember them being a bit underwhelming in a border.  However, in a raised bed, they are zinging.  Here was the first bud, full of scaly promise:

Zinnia bud
Zinnia bud

Here is the first flower of Zinnia ‘Cupid Mixture’.  I know, another mixture.  But I think Zinnias suit being mixed.  Like cocktails.  This one is Peach Daquiri, but I’m looking forward to all sorts of crazy concoctions.

Zinnia 'Cupid Mixture' (3)
Zinnia ‘Cupid Mixture’
Zinnia ‘Cupid Mixed’.
Zinnia ‘Cupid Mixed’

I recently learnt a common name for Zinnia, which is ‘Youth-and-Age’, owing to the little flowerlets, being dandled on the main flower.


Here is my second Zinnia, ‘Queen Red Lime’.  She is fabulous, and she hasn’t even come out yet.

Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime'
Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’

One more?

P6230052And here is my first dahlia!  ‘Totally Tangerine’!

Dahlia 'Totally Tangerine' (2)
Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’

Here it is again, showing the lovely jagged petalloids in the middle.  I love that the insides and tips of the tubules are brightest tangerine against the pinker reverse:

Dahlia 'Totally Tangerine'
Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’

There is a party going on in this one bloom.  Pata Pata.  Summer is here.


Do you grow annuals?  Which are your favourites?

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17 Comments Add yours

  1. bakerst1 says:

    The only annual I grow regularly is Campanula. The rest tends to be a small random selection with Cosmos or Zinnia not infrequent guests. Limited space and focus more on perennials.

    1. Ali says:

      It’s nice to mix it up a bit, isn’t it? I go through phases. Last year I didn’t grow many annuals, as I had run out of space. Now I don’t grow annuals in the flowerbeds because they are all full of perennials, and perennials are so easy and rewarding.

  2. pommepal says:

    What a lovely selection, so colourful. Petunias and marigolds were my favourite summer annuals, that was way back before the trees grew tall and blocked out all the sun. I just let the nasturtiums do their thing now a days. But after the big prune I now have more hours of sunlight on some borders.

    1. Ali says:

      I love nasturtiums. So easy and so pretty.

      1. pommepal says:

        They are popping up everywhere in my garden at the moment, very welcome they are too

  3. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I love to grow portulacas in Summer for their hardiness and drought tolerance. They have a very sweet flower. Goodness that borage looks very exuberant. If my cutting grows that big, I’m not sure where I’ll put it.

    1. Ali says:

      I’m not familiar with portulacas, Jane, but they do look sweet. Yes, I think they might burst my raised bed!

  4. sgeoil says:

    Your borage made me smile. It brings back memories of one I had growing next to the compost at an old address. It had the best spot in the garden! I just loved it.

    1. Ali says:

      It is a delight, isn’t it? I don’t know why I haven’t grown it before.

  5. Heyjude says:

    Borage self seeds like crazy too! I have zillions of the things coming up from last year and am pulling them out every day! But my marigolds from last year haven’t appeared at all 😦 Love nicotiana and cosmos. Tried growing cosmos from seed last year but although I did get some to germinate, the S&S got to them before they could get very big. I have pretty much given up with seeds.

    1. Ali says:

      They are quite a high-maintenance element, aren’t they? I never know whether I love self-seeders or not! Nicotiana produces millions of seedlings!

      1. Heyjude says:

        My problem is that I can’t tell which are the ones I don’t want to keep from the ones I have sown myself! I usually have to wait until they are bigger before removing them!

  6. Jill Kuhn says:

    I used to grow Borage and loved its beautiful flowers… until it took over! ALL your flower photos are gorgeous!! I’m especially partial to the pinks and oranges. 💖🧡💕

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Jill! I will bear that in mind with borage. It is being a bit of a monster!

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