New flowers; your favorite variety; unique colors and forms—growers can't produce every plant, every year. We'd run out of room in the Garden Center! Instead, take on the hard-to-find heirlooms by hand and grow from seed.
Heirloom seeds ensure that any seeds you harvest, or ones that the plant self-sows, will return as the original form. The offspring of hybrids often revert to one of the parent stock—a healthy plant, but one that may lack the distinctive features you seek.
Zinnia spp. & hybrids
Zinnias bloom elegant, pom-like flowers from sturdy stems, perfect for cutting. Hybridization offers a huge number of colors & color combinations—not to mention giant-flower varieties.
GROWING GUIDE: Zinnias love heat. Get a head-start indoors, or wait until the soil warms to cast seeds outside. Try 'Andes Jewel' for deep, maroon red; 'Starlight Rose' blooms white with bright magenta at the center.
There is a sunflower to satisfy every taste; giant and dwarf varieties, straight and branching varieties, and hybrids in a range of colors from golden yellow to red to pink.
GROWING GUIDE: Sow seeds outside in late spring. Sunflowers need full sun. If they don't get it, they'll turn their faces till they find it. Try 'Ms. Mars' for red petals; 'Pike's Peak' will produce edible seeds. Yum!
Viola tricolor hybrids
Violas differ from pansies in size and coloring. Viola's smaller bloom typically has three different color petals, versus the larger pansy's splotchy center. You can find many unusual colors when growing from seed.
GROWING GUIDE: Violas are cool-weather annuals, so start seeds indoors a few weeks before the last frost. Try Burpee's heirloom variety, 'Johnny-Jump-Up,' for tricolor lavender, cream and purple flowers.
In full bloom, (which lasts quite a long time) alyssum resembles a swath of sweet-smelling whipped cream, spread over the landscape. The dense groundcover foils even stubborn weeds.
GROWING GUIDE: Sow outside, where you want the plants to grow, in mid-spring, or start indoors a few weeks early. Try the classic heavy-bloomer, 'Carpet of Snow' for white flowers; 'Royal Carpet' for purple.
French marigolds are prolific bloomers. If you're more interested in flower size than abundance, consider African marigold (T. erecta) hybrids. Both species are reliable, fuss-free garden flowers.
GROWING GUIDE: Give yourself a head start, marigolds love sun. Sow indoors two weeks before last frost, or sow outside 2 weeks after the last frost has passed. Try T. patula 'Janie' for a classic deep red and orange.
Cosmos bipinnatus, C. sulpfureus
Cosmos are beautifully delicate (looking). C. bipinnatus tend to come in pastel shades, with disc-shaped blooms and fern-like foliage. C. sulpfureus are yellows, reds and oranges, with less finely cut leaves.
GROWING GUIDE: Sow seeds outside in early spring; seedlings will survive a light frost. Try 'Double Click Bicolor Pink' for double-flowered blooms in water-color pink; Creamsicle-colored 'Cosmic Orange' tolerates heat and poor soil.