Zinnias Mean Summer

June 19, 2016 lawanda Newspaper Columns

For many people, fresh cut grass, watermelon, sweet corn and birdsong are the smells, tastes and sounds that epitomize the word “summer.”  I’d add the sight of zinnias blooming cheerily in my garden to that list.

I’ve grown zinnias every year since I planted my first garden over 30 years ago.  My mother gave me the seeds.  She had purchased zinnia seeds for her first garden as a young wife and had grown the flowers and saved the seeds every year to replant the following year.  I continue to save seeds and replant every year, so the origin of the zinnias I plant today begins when and where I began.

Zinnias come in a rainbow of colors and are just plain happy looking.  There are many, many zinnia cultivars.  I don’t know what name my zinnia seeds were originally given, but they still produce flowers of red, yellow, orange, pink and the occasional white.  Some of them are daisy-like in appearance with just a single skirt of petals, while others are what are called double-petaled, which is actually about five skirts of petals.  Still others are pom-pom headed almost like chrysanthemums.  I make sure to save seeds from all the colors and forms every year.

Zinnia seeds are some of the easiest to collect and save.  In late summer, some of the blooms begin to turn brown even before the first frost.  Use a scissors to snip the browned flowerheads off the stems.  Spread them on newspaper in a dry area until they are crisply dry, about a week or so depending on the humidity.  Store seedheads in a paper bag in a cool, dry place over winter.

In spring, rub your thumbs over the seedheads to separate the seeds.  After the last spring frost, loosen the soil and rake it smooth.  Scatter the seeds over the soil and rake them in lightly.  Tamp the soil gently but firmly with the flat end of a hoe to ensure good seed to soil contact.  Keep the seeds moist until they germinate.  Once they begin to grow, water deeply and less often rather than lightly and often.

When the plants are several inches tall, a single bud forms at the top of each plant.  Use your thumbnail to snap that bud off.  Yes, removing it will delay flowering a bit, but instead of one flower on each plant, there will be several.

Zinnias are cut-and-come-again flowers which means that cutting them encourages more blooms to form.  The long stiff stems make for excellent cut flowers.

There is a zinnia for every sunny space.  Depending on which seeds you buy, you can find plants ranging from 8” to 40” tall.  You can buy a mix of colors in one seed packet, or just one color if that better fits your landscape plan.  You might find only one or two zinnia seed choices in stores, but seed catalogs may offer 40 or more.

 

AnnualsFlowers


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