There’s something truly beautiful to me about biennials. When I really think about annual flowers, they seem too simple, too easy. I mean, think about it. You start them from seed, they grow quickly and easily into big plants, flower abundantly, and then just like that they set seed and senesce for the year.
The beauty of the biennial is that it’s a little more complicated. In its first year, a plant will grow. While putting energy into establishing a robust root system, all that will grow above ground is a big (or not-so-big) leafy green plant. With its root system firmly built, the plant can withstand winter like a champ. It will sit there, shrug off rain and snow, and live to fight another day. The skeptical gardener may go to check their plants in the winter and worry that they’re not going to make it. But even if shriveled, chapped, frosty or brown, chances are your biennials are just fine.
Come spring, new green growth appears from under the dew. Weeks or months later, that same plant you thought you knew will undergo an incredible metamorphosis and burst into bloom, revealing something new altogether. Hallelujah, a miracle before your eyes! And because you know that this plant has really fought to arrive at this final stage, it’s all the more beautiful to behold.
My Favorite Biennials
I’m trying out some different biennial seeds on my farm this fall. I’ll be sowing them next week (perhaps a bit late!), and hopefully planting them in the ground in about 7 weeks. Follow along on my blog to see how they do! Below are a few examples of flowers I’ll be growing.
During my first few years of growing flowers, I was scared of biennials (and perennials for that matter) and therefore really drawn to the first-year-flowering foxglove varieties such as the ‘Dalmatian’ and ‘Foxy” series. But I’ve come to realize that the truly stunning, special tones and shapes come through in the true biennial types. Check out this milk chocolate variety, for one.
This plant is a confusing one. There are varieties that act as annuals under the right conditions, and others that take years to flower. This article helps demystify the campanula a bit. This year I’m excited to be growing some new-to-me varieties from Ivy Garth Seed. Check out their selections, they’ve got tons of good ones.
Another one with a few standout annual varieties, but where the true beauty lies in the biennials. Phlox is a long-standing yet underrated star of the cottage garden and seems to be just making its way back to the flower farm. With over 142 varieties out there, it’s hard to summarize the virtues of the phlox plant. Check out this article to learn a little more, and then choose your favorites!
How To Get Started With Biennials
If you want to try out some biennials, the key is timing. You need to get the plant established in early/mid fall before the ground gets too cold and the days too short. Sow your flowers about 6 – 8 weeks before your expected first frost date in trays or directly in the ground (depending on the variety – check out your seed packet for more info). Prep your soil well for a long winter, get your plants in the ground, and then watch them grow. Keep weeds at bay the best you can and trust that they’ll make it through. And let me know how it goes!