When you first became aware of flowers they probably included roses, zinnias, wisteria, iris, pansy, snapdragons, and peonies. There are many hybrids now, but the old-fashioned flowers are making a comeback because they are so easy to grow.
In the 1950s, Cosmos were vegetable garden companion flowers that brought pollinators. Cosmos means harmony and balance in Greek, and to the Victorians they signified modesty. Their original single ray flowers may have been replaced by 40 new varieties (www.swallowtailgardens.com) but the originals are still lovely.
Love-in-a-mist, Nigella damascena, is a European native. They have powder blue, dark blue, pink and white flowers with a mist of foliage in the middle. After they are visited by bees and butterflies, the seed capsule forms a little ball on a stem that is used in dried flower arrangements. Mediterranean native Love-in-a-mist is a long-lasting vase flower. (www.johnnyseeds.com)
Spider Flower, Cleome hassleriana, has globes of airy pink and white blossoms on 4- to 5-foot-tall stems. Native to South America, there are 170 Cleomes in their Caper family. Spider Flower makes a large plant that attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, hummingbird moths and bees. (https://www.harrisseeds.com)
Sweet William, Dianthus barbatus, has clove-scented, red and pink flowers. Their common name of Pinks comes from their petals being shaped as though they had been cut with pinking shears. (www.dianeseeds.com).
Four o’clocks, Mirabilis jalapa, has scented flowers that open as the sun is fading. The color choices used to be pretty basic, but now they range from salmon to hot red. Their native range is North and South America, and they were lost to cultivation for years. They are sometimes called the Miracle of Peru. (https://parkseed.com)
At one time, Bachelor Buttons, Centaurea cyan, were found in every garden. They bloom from seed in a matter of weeks, putting out tall stalks of blue, purple, red and pink flowers. Plant them anywhere because Corn Flowers are happy with little care. (https://www.jungseed.com)
All of these historic annuals are easy to grow from seed and many return the following year as seedlings scattered around flower beds.
Molly Day has been gardening for 40 years and garden writing for 15 years. You can search 2,000 entries in her blog at www.allthedirtongardening.blogspot.com.