Annuals-A Garden Book Review


Plants in pots are like animals in a zoo–they’re totally dependent on their keepers.  ~John Van de Water


For the last two years I have been growing some basic annual flowers from seed; snapdragons, pansies, violas, marigolds, sunflowers, torenia, morning glory and petunias.  All of these favorites I start indoors.  Then there are the ones I sow outdoors, and hope they grow in the dry summer if I remember to water them; cleome, cosmos and zinnias.  Of course there are also the bulbs and corms of gladiolas and begonias I plant every summer.IMG_1351

Late spring I make my annual visit to the local nursery to see what catches my eye to fill my many containers.  Some years I am smitten with pinks, blues and whites.  Other years it will be bold oranges, yellows and purples.  And I love to try many types of flowers although I am partial to the many geraniums or pelargoniums and the Calibrachoa.

Looking for more ideas, I decided recently to go back through some garden books I had not picked up in years and the book I am reviewing popped right up as one I needed to revisit as it was all about annuals.  I am always looking for garden tips, new flowers to grow  and I was hoping this book would help.  I am linking in with  Holley’s Garden Book Review meme so check out other great books being reviewed.


Step-by-Step Annuals


Author: Peter Loewer
Paperback:  132 pages
Publisher: Meredith Books; Reissue edition (January 1997)
Amazon Price: $3.99 (used)






In A Few Words

This book is a chock full of information starting with the basics about annuals and the differences between hardy, half-hardy and tender annuals and ending with great resources about these wonderful plants.  There is a whole chapter devoted to designing your garden (making a plan, designing and edging with annuals, formal and informal, containers, mixing annuals and perennials) that also includes many different types of annuals I had not considered before.  I usually go for colors and miss the annual vines, fragrance annuals and foliage annuals.  Not sure why, but I intend to remedy this.IMG_0258

Another aspect of the first chapter is the garden plans for a cutting garden, tropical paradise, mailbox garden and fragrance garden…many intriguing ideas.

The second and third chapters deal with how to grow annuals from soil, light, moisture, and temperature to seed starting, transplanting, pest and disease control, deadheading, supports and drying flowers to name a few of the many sections.

The book ends with a whole host of resources:  a regional garden calendar, encyclopedia of plants, annuals by hardiness zone, an index (a must for me) and other resources for gardening with annuals.



What I Liked

IMG_0268I really adore a book that has lots of tips and information peppered throughout, and this book is chock full.  Besides all the gorgeous pictures which gave me lots of ideas, I really loved the Encyclopedia of Plants.  There are 150 annuals listed with a brief description, colors, bloom time, growth habit, hardiness and growing conditions.

I also loved the garden plans especially the fragrance garden and mailbox garden which gave me an idea to incorporate morning glories and sunflowers to my existing garden around the mailbox.  I had not considered using annuals once some annuals like clematis had faded.  I’ll let you know how it works out.

Every section really has so many wonderful tips and many are ones you would think I would have thought of like lining my wooden containers with plastic bags.  Or mixing sand into the potting mix for better drainage.  But alas I had not.   I tend to go with the tried and true and slap them into containers water and forget or hope!  Now armed with more information and ideas, I feel like the creative juices are flowing once again.



Not So Much

I wish there was a more up to date version of the book as I am sure many plants and ideas could be added. But none-the-less it is a IMG_7806treasure trove of resources and ideas that are well worth the used book price.

Also if you are not a beginner gardener or have lots of experience with many different annuals this book may not be for you, but for most gardeners I think it is a wonderful little book.

While this book is geared toward American gardens, it is still very useful in other countries for garden ideas and especially the list of plants.



Final Thoughts

IMG_1575I was not disappointed with this book as it really has given me so many ideas for plants, containers, garden plans with annuals or without.  I am seriously thinking of redoing an area near the patio as an annual fragrance garden.  I think it would be incredible to sit there in a warm summer breeze as the smells of flowers drift on the wind and entice me to breath deeply and relax.


Do you have favorite annual flowers you grow?  And speaking about annuals, summer is almost here.  That means that the Seasonal Celebrations meme is coming up June 1st.  More details are found below.  So get those post ideas ready for this next great season!





“When bright flowers bloom
Parchment crumbles, my words fade
The pen has dropped …”
–  Morpheus


Come Join Us:

Seasonal Celebrations is a time for marking the change of seasons and what is happening in your part of the world during this time.  I hope you will join in by creating a post telling us how you celebrate this time of year whether summer or winter or something else.  Share your traditions, holidays, gardens and celebrations in pictures, poetry or words starting June 1st.

And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Lessons Learned meme.  What lessons have you learned this past season of spring here in the North and fall in the South.  Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for this new season.The rules are simple.  Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations.  If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts.  Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post.  Make sure to include a link with your comment.

Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the equinox (the 20th of March).  And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog.  Your post should be linked in the weekend before the equinox to give us enough time to include your post in our summary.  And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page (which I still have to create).  The badges here can be used in your post.   So won’t you join in the celebration!!



Next up on the blog:  Wednesday brings another Wildflower Tale.  Then on Monday I will have another in the series, Simply The Best-Herbs.  June is almost here and that means the season will be changing again so watch for Seasonal Celebrations to start on June 1st.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.



38 Replies to “Annuals-A Garden Book Review”

  1. Hi Donna…this sounds like a very informative book. I use a lot of annuals in my garden as fillers. They add so much color for a small price.

  2. My favorite annual for the last couple of years is Angelonia. It bloomed until October last year and needs no attention from me. (I wouldn’t be a very good zoo-keeper and don’t remember to take care of my pots either, so I like to use annuals in the ground.)

  3. hi Donna, your review reminds me how useful it is to re-read books that have been on your shelf for a while. I find I have forgotten some of it, and have moved on as a gardener so am reading it with different eyes. I grow and love annuals, but only wildflowers, nothing that you need to start indoors. I find these are the ones that naturalize.

  4. Hi Donna
    Good review and reminder to pull out the old books. I have only one on annuals which really needs updating as you suggested for yours.

  5. Love those garden books-even ones we haven’t looked at in a while. You are a pretty good gardener to start all those annuals from seeds!

  6. For years, I have thought that annuals were a waste of effort, and have concentrated on perennials, but I have just realized this past year how much more fuller, varied, and interesting my garden would be if I had some annuals included in the beds. This year I have started buying and trying annual seeds. This book would be very helpful to me, as right now, I have just thrown the seeds out there, and have hoped for the best. Thanks for a great resource, and for joining in!

  7. I am planning a fragrance garden and had not thought of using annuals. You have started me thinking… One annual I will never give up are sweet peas.

  8. I have a mixture of annuals and perennials. Works very nicely for me and not too much work. Thanks for the info. Hope you have a great week.

  9. I will have to remember to join the June 1st meme as so many things are happening that I am throwing up hands in air and telling, “gardening? Not for me anymore” :-)..okay that’s the feeling but not taking place actually.

    I recently saw snapdragons in Home Depot. Really wanted to buy but me being the miser, was not ready to shell out about 10 for an annual plant. It said that with proper protection, I can even grow it as a perennial. Is that true?

    My fave annuals are sunflowers and merrigold. Can’t have enough of them. I also grow tube-rose. Then, I put the bulbs away during winter. The smell of tube-rose is absolutely heavenly. But, I also grow from seed zinnia and cosmos and others.

    1. Wonderful annuals you are growing. You can grow snapdragons as a perennial if you are zone 7 or higher. They are quite easy to grow from seed I think.

      I do hope you will be able to join in…I will post June 1st and then if you join in you just leave the link in a comment…

  10. I confess I haven’t read too many books about annuals; I tend to read more about gardening techniques or veggies or trees. This book looks like one to watch for when browsing in used book stores, though – I’m especially interested in some of the planting techniques you’ve mentioned in your wonderful review. Always good to gain some extra knowledge in that department! 🙂

    I’m a huge fan of snapdragons, zinnias, asters, and stock – they’re my annual “staples.” I have mostly perennials in my beds, but it’s nice to round out everything with annuals. I wish I had the space and the ability to grow them from seed, however.

  11. I don’t use many annuals I think they are too much work and very often the plants are too small to make much of a show. I do like some that self seed around the garden, mostly hardy annuals. The book looks interesting and I will look forward to seeing the perfumed annual border. Christina

    1. As my tree canopy is changing with the taking down of my ash trees, I am looking forward to redesigning many areas that will now be in sun. I am looking for just the right spot for the fragrance garden and then the right plants…hoping to bring it to fruition next year. I use the annuals in containers and with the veg garden as good companions mostly.

  12. There are annuals that I love. I’m having an obsession with species Impatiens right now. Of the three packets of seed of Impatiens glandulifera, I purchased, I have about 4 plants. Hopefully they will grow, flower and reseed like the Poor Man’s Orchid does (I. balfouri). It has deep pink flowers and grows very tall. LOVE!

    I’m also completely smitten with Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate. I learned this year that slugs love this plant. I was much better with applying slug bait and have tons more seedlings. I love how tall they get. So tropical and showy.

    I’m also a fan of Bread Seed and California poppies, pink of course, but the purples are also nice.

    I don’t do petunias or lobelia, the typical annuals. I like the big beefy ones.

    Thank you again, Donna for your encouragement with my writing pursuits. You are such a dear sweet person. I love that we’re friends. I wish I could repay you somehow.

    1. I think your growing conditions allow for self seeding from some nice annuals…here not so much although violas and some pansies and petunias will seed and grow back…but not many.

      I am so glad to support you my friend…perhaps I will have a book in the near future…it is a goal.

  13. Hi Donna, I enjoyed your take on this book and its suggestions. Container gardening is an art in and of itself. I use a lot of annuals. Some that I like are Lobularia Snow Princess, tropical hibiscus, lantana, Verbena bonariensis, balsam, cleome, cosmos, mandevilla, kiss me over the garden gate…and more. Have a good evening my friend!

    1. Oh Beth it is great to hear about other annuals I have not tried but certainly will note for the future…glad you enjoyed the review.

  14. It sounds pretty comprehensive and that is good in a garden book. I like using annuals like I like adding spices to food. They perk up any garden if used like you use some perennials. Just a pinch.

  15. Sounds like a book I need! I’m trying Torenias for the first time this year, and so far they’re doing quite well in my hanging baskets. I usually plant a lot of Impatiens, but resisted this year because of downy mildew. Actually, I’m trying a lot of new plants this year–annuals and perennials. Great book review, Donna!

    1. I was never very successful with impatiens but tried torenias and love them…it really is a good book.

  16. i adore nasturtiums and cosmos
    and wave petunias and always the good old fashioned
    marigold but really enjoy trying new varieties and new ways to present them. I really like using other bits of art strewn into the garden and mix it up like a colorful soup…..annuals really do make the garden sing.
    thanks for sharing your lovely photos and ideas,

    1. Jennifer you named some of my very favorite annuals…I too love the idea of a garden soup with bits and bobs….

  17. Another great book review, Donna! I use a lot of annuals because they bloom longer than perennials. I just created a new bed and have decided to make it a cutting garden with zinnias, pentas, verbena and bachelor buttons this year, then I’ll plan which perennials to plant next year. P. x

    1. Pam, I have often thought about a cutting garden but the idea just sat in limbo…love to hear and see yours!! I adore annuals for all summer color as well.

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