June 11, 2014

Zinnias: A Perfect Cut Flower


I hesitate to put these words in print...in fear of retribution for my hubris...but it has been an exceptionally cool and wet June thus far, and the garden has been especially beautiful... and most generous in providing me with flowers for cutting. However, I am nothing if not a realist...


and therefore acutely aware that heat and humidity will arrive shortly, no doubt soon followed by that third musketeer, drought.


  So if I want garden color for cutting later in the season I must plan ahead...


and get my zinnia seeds in the ground sooner rather than later. We have more rain in the forecast this week, and I want to take advantage of its magical, seed-germinating powers (have you noticed how much more quickly rain-watered seeds germinate verses hose-watered seeds...?)


PLANNING ahead, quite happily, does not mean much EFFORT ahead when it comes to getting those seeds in the ground. (And I do start from seed...zinnia elegans, the long stemmed varieties I grow for their sturdy straight stems, perfect for cutting...are seldom sold in cell packs...and even more infrequently sold in the colors I like to cultivate. Bedding zinnias, like 'Profusion', are a whole different animal...err plant...altogether, and not addressed here.)


Truth be told, I love all colors of the double flowered or Dahlia varieties, though I admit to a real penchant for chartreuse-lime/green 'Envy' or 'Tequila Lime' and the pinky-lilac 'Purple Prince'. My friend Bubba told me about a variety 'Queen Red Lime' that marries these two shades, and I am itching to try it. All three, plus more varieties, can be found from Burpee Seed (here.) 

But I digress. Back to the topic of the mindless ease of planting them. I like to plant my zinnias in a cutting bed of their own. They are prone to powdery mildew and lanky, awkward form in my mind...two characteristics I don't want in my main garden beds where I am more concerned about the totality of the look than its individual components. And in my enclosed back yard, poor air circulation is always an issue......particularly where zinnias are concerned. In addition, if they DID harmonize with other players in my landscape, I would be loathe to cut them because they looked so nice...thereby defeating my purpose of growing them to cut.


If you are imagining a weed free, expansive space of pleasingly straight rows filled with boisterous zinnia color, you would be mistaken. I have an arid, unirrigated dirt strip along my drive...in an area by my trash cans and conveniently hidden from view by a massive hedge of euonymous. It gets good air flow and full afternoon sun. Brutal sun and heat, two things zinnias handle with relative ease.


The most beautiful zinnias I've ever seen were those grown by Husband's brother. Beatific blooms swollen with colorful vigor thanks to copious amounts of chicken and guinea fowl manure. Mine, however, will not be thus spoiled.


The only pampering preparation these zinnias will get is a bag of soil--potting or otherwise; whatever I have on hand--and the seeds planted in the loose layer it creates when I dump it on the dry bare soil. Presto, done. If no rain is in the forecast, I'll give it a drink...more until the seed germinates if it remains dry. Otherwise, they are pretty much on their own. (Maybe a handful of granular organic fertilizer tossed their way if I'm feeling benevolent.) Free from my tendency to overwater and over indulge my flowery pets. If the foliage suffers from bug bite or mildew, so be it. 


My only interest is in the end result. A happy, healthy bloom whose head I will
almost immediately lop off, whisk away, and ultimately reunite with its other flowery companions. And the more Icut, the more I'll have. All for around a dollar and ten minutes of my time.


A pretty good garden investment if you ask me.























1 comment:

  1. I love love love zinnias!!! All kinds and all colors: it doesn't matter. They are superb! However, I do NOT have luck with seeds: these or any others. In May I planted maybe 30 zinnia seeds, trying for a lime green and orange look. Well, I have maybe, at most 10 small plants. So I gave in and filled in with some seedlings from the farmers market. They are the "Cut and Come Again" so should be nice and tall. We will see! Our weather has been just fine: sunny days, dry but I water often, and comfortable nights.
    Well, I'm about to give up on all seeds! My Scabiosa, oh that was pretty much a failure. I love the Black Knight and have two that might actually make it, but otherwise not much luck there either!

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