In the ideal perennial garden, something of interest is occurring most of the time but there can be occasional periods with little flower color. Although we have learned to bridge these lapses with colorful foliage, there is another way to color the garden, namely, using annuals.
One of my favorites is Nicotiana (Flowering Tobacco). Nicotiana alata is the species most often grown by the greenhouses. It is available in single colors of pink, rose, lime, and white as well as in a mix. The lime is the hardest to find but the one I use the most because it brightens everything else without competing. These plants grow about twelve inches high and have large tubular flowers that seem to bloom nonstop. They are usually I bloom when purchased.
There are some other species of Nicotiana that I use in my containers and garden. The flowers of N.x sanderae are usually a mix of shades of pink and purple but my favorite is ‘Perfume Deep Purple’. All of them grow about twenty inches high but only twelve inches wide. The mix has seeded in my garden but, sadly, ‘Perfume Deep Purple’ has not.
N.sylvestris is a bold plant, growing five feet high with huge basal leaves but the flowers themselves are spindly, drooping clusters of white tubes (looks much better than the description) held well above the foliage. They make a great backdrop for shorter ornamental grasses like Molinia caerulea (Purple Moor Grass). Happily, this Nicotiana seeds so once established, you will always have it even after a harsh winter like the one just past.
N.langsdorfii has very short, compact lime tubes that are clustered on three to four foot stalks. It is difficult to find as a plant but supposedly also self-seeds prolifically. Since these last two species usually arise from seedlings, they do not flower until mid-summer.
All Nicotiana can be grown in full sun to part shade in barely moist soil although they are amazingly drought tolerant.
Are any of these Nicotiana in your garden?