Giant Flowers

Really tall flowers take a flower bed to new heights: sky-high sunflowers, towering hollyhocks, and other flowers of unusual stature lift your eyes up to the sky. They make a garden much more dramatic.

Annual sunflowers are among the easiest and most spectacular of tall flowers. The tallest sunflowers produce big, bright yellow blooms at the top of strong, leafy stems 15 feet tall. Branching sunflowers, which have a dozen or more cheerful flowers, can also get to be at least six feet tall, which is more than enough to make a big impression.

Tall flowers are especially delightful for children, who find a special thrill in just standing among cleomes, with their sparkler-like flowers overhead, or among bright cosmos growing at eye level (if you are four or even five feet tall). Children like tall foxgloves, too, with their fairy-cap flowers. Hollyhocks, which bloom all summer long and display their colorful, flared flowers along graceful stems up to 12 feet tall, may make even adults feel like Alice in Wonderland.

These tall flowers all need lots of sun to reach their potential, and they should be grown in spots sheltered from high winds: planting them in front of a dark evergreen windbreak will really highlight the fancy blooms. To keep them from looking lanky, shorter (but still tall) Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) and zinnias can fill in the middle layer, perhaps with some exuberant Queen Anne's lace (Ammi majus), which grows to almost four feet tall. The dangling flowers of Amaranthus will look great in this combination. Sprawling lantana, bright marigolds, or mounds of colorful petunias around the edge of the flower bed give the whole bed a solid and colorful foundation, something to grow on.

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