Well, it happened: I’ve turned into my parents. When we were younger, remember how the nine-month school year dragged like an eternity, and three months of summer thankfully stretched long? My parents, though, said time flew too quickly, even more so as they aged.

Their words were true. Summer has flown quicker than a rabbit devouring a high-priced lily. While the weather’s nice, let’s revel in this season’s annual flowers.

Perennial flowerbeds are tremendous for their ever-changing seasonal appeal, as various types come and go. But annual flowers are downright fun. They are bright, cheerful and bring a smile to any yard or landscape. Annual flowers can be whimsical and carefree, or featured in the stately gardens of a European palace.

We’re living in good times, with vast improvements in annual flower cultivars. Viewing them now, while they’re still in gorgeous bloom, provides ideas for next year.

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Public gardens are great spots for inspiration. Research universities often maintain labeled display gardens, such as North Dakota State University’s, located on the west edge of campus near the intersection of 12th Avenue North and 18th Street in Fargo.

The following are a few favorites, especially eye-catching this year:

  • Carmine Velour Wave Petunia: A recent All-America Selections (AAS) winner, I’ve grown it several years and am impressed with its rich color and spreading, yet neat habit.
  • Big Duck Yellow Marigold: Another AAS winner, it’s become my new favorite large-flowered marigold, blooming profusely on plants about 18 to 20 inches high.
  • Cleome: Although it’s been around for ages, it’s unbeatable for a tall, background flower. The Sparkler series is shorter than the 3- to 4-feet Queen series.
  • Blue salvia: The varieties Victoria and Blue Bedder provide stately spikes of sky blue well into fall, and contrast well with the rounded flowers of yellow marigolds or pink petunias or zinnias.

Holi Scarlet Zinnia. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
Holi Scarlet Zinnia. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

  • Holi Scarlet Zinnia: A recent AAS winner, the large, vibrant scarlet blossoms are borne on plants only about 12 to 15 inches tall. Perfect for the front of flowerbeds.
  • Raspberry Lemonade Zinnia: A mix of the beautiful Zahara series of zinnia, which is low-growing and prolific. The colors are a pleasant blend of yellows, raspberry rose and pink. Resistant to mildew disease.

Coral Fountain Amaranthus. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
Coral Fountain Amaranthus. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

  • Coral Fountain Amaranthus: Sure to catch attention, the cascading plumes of flowers are in the love-lies-bleeding group of amaranthus.

Las Vegas Mix Gomphrena. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
Las Vegas Mix Gomphrena. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

  • Las Vegas Mix Gomphrena: Heat and sun-loving, these ball-shaped blossoms rise above plants that are 18 inches high. Another head-turner, and beautiful for something unique.

Savannah Melinis Ornamental Grass. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
Savannah Melinis Ornamental Grass. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

  • Savannah Melinis Ornamental Grass: The plumes of rosy pink are striking on this grass, which is an annual in our hardiness zone. With spikes rising to about 18 to 24 inches, it’s a colorful addition to larger planters or flowerbeds.
  • Super Hero Spry Marigold: A low-growing AAS winner with colorful two-tone yellow and mahogany red flowers perfect for the edges of flowerbeds.

Lisianthus. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum
Lisianthus. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

  • Lisianthus: This unique annual has blossoms shaped like roses, in white, pink, lavender and purple. Sure to draw attention.
  • Kong Coleus: Striking leaves are much larger than the average coleus, in assorted colors. Perfect for containers in shade.
  • Main Street Beale Street Coleus: The first-ever coleus to win an AAS award. I’m impressed with the rich red, non-fading color and the well-rounded, hefty growth. Topping high at 24 to 36 inches, it should be given its own container, rather than a mixed planter. Unlike some coleus, it likes shade or sun.
  • Sonata Cosmos: The light and airy foliage, topped with large, colorful flowers, adds an old-fashioned feel to the flower garden.

A note about availability: No garden center can carry all of the thousands of flower varieties possible. If your locally owned garden center doesn’t stock a desired type, consider starting them yourself from seeds grown indoors, purchased by mail order.

Upcoming plant sale

The Fargo Garden Society's Annual Plant Sale is coming up next weekend featuring member-grown perennial flowers and herbs, plus garden art and miscellaneous items. It will start at noon Saturday, Sept. 12, in the west parking lot at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, 710 10th St. S., Fargo. Please park in the east lot.

ARCHIVE: Read more of Don Kinzler's Growing Together columns

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu or call 701-241-5707.