Annual Manual - How To Grow Annual Flowers & Plants

Discovering Annuals, by Graham Rice

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Annual Flowers


Bedding plant
Cold frame
Damping off
F1 hybrid
F2 hybrid
Field grown mixture
Formula mixture
Fully double

Half hardy
Harden off
Open pollinated
Pelleted seed
Pinching out
Plug plants
Pricking out
Ray floret

Seed crop
Seed stock
Self colour
Self sow(n)
Set seed
Space sow
Thin/thin out
True/true to type
Winter annual

Annual A plant which completes its entire life cycle in one season; e.g. alyssum. Also, a seed-raised, naturally perennial plant whose useful life cycle extends only to one season; e.g. petunia. See also: ephemeral, winter annual.

Bedding plant Any plant set out specifically for a spring or summer display then removed; e.g. bellis, geranium.

Bicolour(ed) A flower in which two colours appear.

Biennial A plant which completes its entire life cycle over two seasons; e. g. Eryngium giganteum. Seed germinates and the plant establishes during the summer and autumn of its first season, then flowers, sets seed and dies in its second season. Also, naturally perennial plants treated in this way: e.g. wallflower.

Calyx The group of small, leaf-like structures enclosing and protecting a flower bud; each segment is known as a sepal.

Coir Fibrous material derived from the outer husk of the coconut; used as an environmentally friendly replacement for peat in potting composts but usually less easy to manage. Sometimes known as coconut fibre.

Cold frame Low structure with solid sides in timber, brick, concrete steel, aluminium or sometimes plastic with a removable clear top (known as the 'light') in glass or transparent plastic. Provides protection from the most severe weather and used especially for hardening off (see below).

Cultivar A distinct special form of a plant which has been selected in cultivation; distinct from 'variety', which is a distinct speciual form of a plant which is found growing in the wild.

Damping off A fungus disease which attacks young seedlings, causing them to collapse and die suddenly (see page xxx).

Dibber Slender device for making a planting hole in potting compost or garden soil for large seeds or for seedlings. Usually wood or plastic.

Drill Shallow furrow in garden soil made with a cane or the corner of the rake and into which seeds are sown.

Ephemeral An annual plant with a very short life cycle, often weeks. Usually a weed.

Eye The centre of a flower, in colour often contrasting with the rest of the flower.

F1 hybrid (In this context) the result of crossing, often by hand, two specially selected and highly bred parents. The resultant plants are usually very uniform, often very prolific and seed is always more expensive than seed of open pollinated or F2 hybrids (see below). Most familiar bedding plants such as petunias, impatiens and geraniums are F1 hybrids. Seed taken from F1 hybrids usually produce plants unlike both the F1 hybrid and its parents.

F2 hybrid (In this context) the result of allowing F1 hybrids to pollinate themselves and each other, often indiscriminately. The result is usually variable, but predictable within broad limits. The resultant plants usually retain some, but not all, of the qualities of their F1 hybrid parents but are less expensive. Relatively few bedding plants are produced in this way but include geraniums and pansies. Plants grown from seed saved from F2 hybrids can be variable and unpredictable.

Field grown mixture Seed collected from plants in mixed colours growing together. The resultant balance of colours is usually slightly variable and unpredictable.

Formula mixture Seed collected from plants grown separately in individual colours and blended later in a pre-determined proportion. The resultant balance of colours is constant and predictable.

Fully double A flower in which the number of petals is dramatically increased so that it appears to consist entirely of petals.

Germination The development of a seed from an apparently inert object to a young plant (seedling).

Half hardy Used to describe annual or perennial plants which thrive out of doors in summer but whose naturallife cycle is cut short by the first autumn frosts or by low winter temperatures.

Harden off To acclimatise plants raised in a greenhouse or other protected environment to cooler conditions outside by steadily exposing them to less protection.

Hardy Used to describe plants which are not normally killed by frosts.

Leggy Used to describe plants, especially seedlings, which have become unnaturally thin and stretched owing to their being grown in low light conditions.

Open pollinated Of cultivars derived from allowing a stand of plants to be pollinated by bees or other relatively uncontrolled means. The resulting plants vary in their uniformity according to the care with which rogues (see below) are removed.

Pelleted seed Individual seeds enclosed in a clay pellet which breaks down on contact with water. Allows very small seed to be handled and sown more easily.

Perlite White, lightweight, inert material derived from volcanic rock and used to improve drainage in potting composts.

Picotee Used to describe flowers or petals with a pale ground colour and a dark band of the same or a different colour around the edge.

Pinching out The removal of a shoot tip, usually from a young plant, to encourage the development of side shoots.

Plug plants Young plants, usually seedlings, grown in individual cells of compost enabling them to be pricked out or transplanted without disturbing the roots.

Pricking out Transferring seedlings to individual pots, or given more space in a seed tray, to allow uncrowded development.

Ray floret The colourful petals of plants in the daisy family; the central eye of daisy flowers is made up of disk florets.

Rogue An off-type, of any sort, in a stand of plants grown by a seed producer for their seed; e.g. a blue-flowered individual in a stand of plants of a white-flowered cultivar. If the rogue is not removed (rogued) the resulting seed will usually produce a few off-types amongst those which are correct when grown in the garden; e.g. blue-flowered plants amongst the white.

Seed crop A stand of plants grown by a seed producer specifically to provide seed.

Seed stock The batch of seed of a particular cultivar from a given supplier. Seed stocks from different suppliers may vary according to the attention given to roguing (see above).

Self colour Used of a flower in which the colour is even and uniform.

Self sow(n) Used when a plant in the garden sheds its own seed which then germinates nearby.

Self-fertile Used of a species or cultivar which will set seed when pollinated with its own pollen.

Self-sterile Used of a species or cultivar which will not set seed when pollinated with its own pollen.

Sepal The leaf-like structure enclosing a flower bud, collectively called the calyx.

Series A range of cultivars, usually of a popular bedding plant, which are very similar in all respects except the colour of their flowers.

Set seed To produce viable seed following pollination.

Space sow To place (usually large) seeds individually in the soil at consistent spacing.

Spur The slender tube at the back of some flowers, e.g. aquilegia, usually producing nectar.

Sterile Used of a cultivar or an individual plant which is incapable of producing seed. Sometimes refined as follows: male sterile, producing no viable pollen but capable of producing seed; female sterile, incapable of producing seed but producing fertile pollen.

Stopping Removal of the shoot tip, usually from a young plant, to encourage branching.

Tender Highly susceptible to frost damage.

Thin/thin out To remove some seedlings from a row in order to allow those remaining space to develop without crowding.

True/true to type Of a plant, or group of plants, which matches the accepted description of the cultivar to which it is assumed to belong.

Winter annual An annual which germinates late in the season and flowers early the following season; will also develop normally from a spring sowing.


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