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Take a gamble on three unsung annuals?

Take a gamble on three unsung annuals?

To have something different, sometimes you have to be willing to gamble. These three cool-season annuals fit that category. They're not common because they're somewhat temperamental, but from the sparkling clarity of nemesia to the fluttery marked wings of schizanthus or the pastel pouches of linaria, few flowers proclaim spring more buoyantly. You can rely on the traditional varieties, or experiment with new colors and sizes.

Your climate cues planting time

The sooner the weather allows you to plant, the earlier you will have flowers and the more months you can enjoy them.

Right along the coast from San Francisco south, you can plant large areas now with confidence; here these flowers perform most of the year.

In mild coastal valleys, play it safe by planting in large pots. Give them as much sun as you can, but if battering rains or frosts threaten, move pots to a porch or other shelter. For larger areas in the ground, take a gamble on a protected site or wait until February, when lengthening days speed recovery from any setbacks.

The colder your climate, the more cautious you should be. If frosts are hard or frequent, wait until they are past to plant outdoors. But inland expect only about a month of glory, since these cool-weather lovers dwindle away with the first heat.

Wherever you grow them, provide full sun and fast drainage by using coarse, porous soil and by planting in pots or raised beds. Space plants 6 inches apart in the ground, a few inches apart in pots. Choose young, compact seedlings if possible. Pinch back any leggy tips by a third to half.

Water enough to keep soil moist but never soggy. Feed just enough to keep foliage healthy; too much makes them lanky.

All three plants tend to arch to the ground, then grow erect again, often rooting wherever they touch soil. If plants stop blooming or become straggly, cut back to a leaf node 3 to 4 inches above the ground; plants fill out and often bloom again within a few weeks. Use any clipped flowers in bouquets--despite their delicate appearance, they are quite long-lasting.

Choose from many sizes

Most popular and widely sold of the three is Carnival or Rainbow nemesia, a mixture of orange, red, gold, cream, and purplish shades. Its inch-wide flowers form a thick cluster of color that is equally effective carpeting large areas, edging a walk, or trailing from a basket.

Less commonly sold are large-flowered nemesias such as "Fire King' (red), "Orange Prince', and "Bluebird' (new this year); and small-flowered "Blue Gem' (shown) and Gem Mixed (mostly pastels and blue shades). The small-flowered forms are charming, but not as dense or strong-growing; use them in small quantities as contrast to other colors.

Light-green, fern-like leaves of schizanthus are ornamental in their own right. Our photographs here show the oldfashioned Angel's Wings, which some prefer for its height. Others now favor dwarf Hit Parade, with brighter colors and a compact habit similar to nemesia's.

You can buy nemesia and schizanthus in sixpacks and 4-to 6-inch pots now and in early spring; or sow seeds indoors about 8 weeks before time to transplant outdoors. For seed sources, see page 242.

Linaria grows so quickly and easily from seeds that plants are seldom sold; seeds are widely available on nursery racks. For soft pastels, choose Fairy Bouquet, shown; for darker, brighter shades of the same colors, use Northern Lights.

Sow them where you want them to grow. Mix the tiny seeds with sand so you can see where and how thickly you've sown. Broadcast them in clusters or over entire flower beds, as in the garden shown, or sprinkle a few into the chinks of a rock wall. When seedlings are several inches tall, dig up clumps that are too dense and use them to fill in any sparse areas.

Photo: On our cover: Carnival nemesia cascades over sides of hanging clay pot

Photo: In October, plant nemesia from sixpacks into hanging pot to create display above; or substitute three to six lacy schizanthus in the center for the effect at upper right

Photo: A winning combination: Angel's Wings schizanthus stretch to 15 inches in center of pot at left. Around the rim spill Carnival nemesias, in gem-like colors. Dense planting helps support flowers, shows diverse colors

Photo: Multicolored schizanthus

Fluttery petals and intricate markings give it the nickname butterfly flower

Photo: Linaria looks like miniature snapdragons

Masses of pastel pouches on 8- to 10-inch stems are Fairy Bouquet; owner counted 13 color variations. Sow seeds in place like wildflowers; new plants will volunteer year after year

Photo: Low-growing nemesias now also come in blue

For contrast with fiery to pastel hues, try "Blue Gem', with a more open habit and flowers about half as large as the kind shown above and on the cover
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:nemesia, schizanthus, linaria
Date:Oct 1, 1984
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