Annual Manual - How To Grow Annual Flowers & Plants

Discovering Annuals, by Graham Rice

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Trends in annuals

From Country Life

The seed trade thrives on innovation. Every year the word 'new' dominates the catalogues as the companies try to outdo each other, as much in the overenthusiasm of their prose as in the quality of their introductions for the season. Yet perhaps 'innovation' is the wrong word for in recent years while the number of genuine breakthroughs has declined, more varieties from the 1950s, the 1930s and even the nineteenth century have been reintroduced.

This tendency to look back as well as forward is partly an exhibition of simple nostalgia but it is also true that a vast number of superb varieties have been lost over the years and deserve to be reintroduced. These old varieties, produced by relatively unsophisticated techniques, are much less expensive than modern F1 hybrids, seed of which is often produced by time consuming hand pollination in a greenhouse.

Open-pollinated varieties, whose seed is produced from bee-pollinated plants grown outside, are far more economical and until recently were the standard types. As it happens the opening up of Eastern Europe has revealed that the old state-run seed companies in the Eastern block were still growing old varieties of this type which had long since vanished from British catalogues. Some have been taken up and marketed over here.

While the seed companies are looking back to the past they are also looking forward. Some are developing new mixtures and new colours in the same style, like Thompson & Morgan's 'Angel's Choir' double poppies in misty pastel shades. On a more sophisticated level the multi-national plant breeding companies are still pioneering genuinely new developments in F1 hybrid bedding plants using the most sophisticated plant breeding techniques.

More on Trends in annuals
The revival of old varieties
Container plants
The future

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