Philippa Hodkinson gardens in England’s most northerly county, Northumberland. Here she picks 15 of her favourite annuals that grow successfully in her windswept garden.
A tall-stemmed plant with purple-violet flowers, rather like a delicate thistle-head. It’s an easily grown, scented annual that makes an excellent cut flower. Best sown en masse to create a dramatic effect. 75cm.
Don’t be put off by its common name of bishop’s weed. This voguish plant is like a super-charged cow parsley, but with much bigger, more dramatic flowers. It’s nectar-rich so attracts butterflies and bees too.
Better known as dill, this superb annual with lime-green foliage and yellow, umbel flowers looks good with virtually any other plant. It grows easily, self-seeds readily, and you can use the aniseed-flavoured leaves in cooking.
Sometimes called cupid’s dart, this short-lived perennial is treated like an annual in Philippa’s northern garden. The flowers resemble a pretty, lilac-blue cornflower, which means it is a favourite of flower arrangers. Has little in the way of foliage, so plant in drifts for maximum effect.
Calendula officinalis ‘Orange King’
A bright-orange, double flower, which was a favourite of Gertrude Jekyll who used it in large drifts in the garden on Lindisfarne. Simple to grow, it self-seeds gently and keeps on producing flowers if it is regularly deadheaded.
Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’
A dark, almost-black cornflower and a stunner, but best grown in drifts and supported with wire as it has a tendency to flop. The flowers are a bee magnet and last well out of water, making it good for decorating puddings and salads.
Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’
Although it looks quite exotic, with its glaucous blue-green foliage and droplets of dark-purple flowers, this honeywort is a truly tough character, and given dry soil and lots of sun will flower its head off for months. Flower arrangers and bees love it.
Chrysanthemum carinatum ‘Polar Star’
A showy, tri-coloured flower that resembles a child’s drawing of a flower. Its white petals have a yellow inner halo surrounding a dark-brown centre. It also has good lacy foliage and makes a long-lasting cut flower.
Chrysanthemum coronarium ‘Primrose Gem’
This cheery, old-fashioned annual creates a neat dome of foliage bursting with buttons of primrose-yellow flowers with a golden centre. Another favourite of Gertrude Jekyll that she planted extensively on Lindisfarne and one that Philippa wouldn’t be without.
Crepis rubra ‘Snow White’
This pinkish-white flower, a cross between a daisy and a dandelion, does best in full sun where it will bloom for months. Good for containers too as it likes being kept on the dry side.
This wild carrot has the same feathery foliage as its domesticated cousins, but grown as a biennial, and left to run to seed, it produces a beautiful flower that looks like sweet Cicely. It thrives in dryish sandy soil. Sow late summer to flower the following May-June.
Dianthus barbatus Nigrescens Group ‘Sooty’
A cottage garden favourite, this biennial has a clove-like scent, maroon-coloured leaves and an eye-catching, dark-wine-coloured flower. It will gently self-seed around your garden but is best grown fresh each year in late summer.
Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora
Foxglove is the quintessential cottage garden flower. It’s a biennial that will easily self-seed – sometimes too generously – and flower for weeks especially if you remove the central flower, which encourages it to produce side shoots.
Words Caroline Beck
Photography Andrea Jones