Sure, I know there isn’t much buy-in for common annuals these days. Now we can add to the historic disdain – from many longtime gardeners, though certainly not all – for such plants as petunias, geraniums, lobelia and so on the fact that they usually aren’t native. So there’s that.
Of course, I don’t care about any of this. I love all the plants I’ve mentioned and many, many others of their ilk.
Like roses and other continually hybridized and improved species though, annuals are having many of the features I love about them removed. Just as with roses, the first thing to go is often scent. Petunias can have lovely scents, though not any of the current varieties from the big growers like Proven Winners. Their big things are heavy flowering, doubling, multi-colors, and always new and better series every few seasons. Waves seem to have been overcome by Supertunias.
I’ll buy pretty much anything that strikes my fancy at the time no matter what it’s called, but in addition to the big brands that dominate local nurseries, I always try to have a few old-fashioned petunias with scent. Thankfully, these can still be found, mainly online.
Two stand-bys are the Old Fashioned Climbing (I would go with a more specific name for this one if I were them) and Rainmaster (Petunia axillaris, shown above), both of which I get from Select Seeds. Both have lovely scents and the climber, which is multi pastels, really does climb. The Rainmaster needs to be deadheaded and if you’re looking for the traditional mound of flowers that most petunias provide, forget about it. It has kind of a strange habit, but I like it. It wouldn’t work for a hanging basket. I go to the new hybrids for that. This one is more upright and can mix well with other vertical annuals, like salvia.
What’s wrong with deadheading anyway? It’s a good way to while away a summer Saturday morning when there isn’t much else to do – with cocktails still several hours in the distance. And the Rainmaster foliage tends not to get ratty in late summer as with many other varieties.
Am I alone in my fondness for old school scented petunias? If not, I’d love to hear about other sources. It’s always good to have a fallback. In the meantime, I’m thankful I can still get these.