Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Zinnias—who knew?

My faith in the late summer garden was renewed during a recent trip to Georgian Bay. The proprietor of the local LCBO, marina, filling station, and grocery had surrounded most of her property with containers of the most vibrant zinnias I have ever seen. There was also a small garden tableau featuring zinnias and other plants, as well as rocks, gnomes, and other decorative elements. Not my thing, but it worked for her.

I wonder if zinnias from seed would be less susceptible to the mildew that my zinnias have fallen victim to. It’s not terrible, as it mainly affects lower leaves, but it is unsightly. I also wonder if seeds would provide all the brilliant color and shape selections I noticed on her property. Hers were truly remarkable and I hope to upload some pictures soon. (I have to rely on friends’ documentation).

Normally I have no patience whatsoever for seeds. Without an indoor set-up, ours is far too short a season for most of them. Some, such as nasturtiums, morning glories, and a few others work OK here, but I’ve never been too excited about the whole process. It’s fun for kids— the wonder of a large plant emerging from such a tiny source, all that.

But—next year—maybe zinnias will turn me into a seed believer.


Carol said...

If you are going to try seeds, zinnias should make you a believer. You still get some mildew on them, but you can choose from so many varieties, all sizes and colors. Go for it!

Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

I`m going to try some seeds this winter. Found a plan for a cheap seed and plant light stand.
Go for it I say too!


trey said...

Zinnias are the most popular summer flower we have. We don’t have a mildew problem as it’s so hot and dry here. The best part is it is one of the few annuals deer won’t eat.

bessie_marie_alice said...

hi there, live on shores of Georgian Bay..what part were you visiting..if nearby I might just take a run and looking for a fall spectacular bloom for an otherwise dull greenery

Tim said...

As you say, growing zinnias is fun for kids. Our daughter enjoyed growing them three years in a row, from age six to nine. This year, she opened her horizons to include all of my wife Sara’s flower garden, which consists mostly of perennials. So the annual zinnias went by the wayside.

My name is Tim, and my life-partner and I do our gardening on one of the Gulf Islands off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. We started to blog our activities this year, please feel free to come and visit.

Did you know that Zinnias were named after a German professor of botany, Johann Gottfried Zinn in the seventeen hundreds? They’re warm weather plants, preferring dry conditions, so we too had trouble with mildew here in the coastal rainforest.

Luckily, we were introduced to an array of wonderful horticultural products made by a Canadian company, Advanced Nutrients. For instance, they make a spray called Protector, that is especially designed for powdery mildew. Not only did it get rid of the problem on the zinnias, but now we spray our entire garden, and powdery mildew is for us a thing of the past.

If you must start the seeds indoors, as we had to do, make sure that you do it in the final container (it doesn’t like to be transplanted) and put it on the sunniest windowsill in your house. It likes high temperatures, so if you’re doing this during a cool spring, consider putting up the thermostat in the room where the seed is germinating. 70-75º F is adequate, but 80-85º F is desirable.

Plant three or four seeds per pot, to make sure that at least one germinates. Once the seedlings start growing, clip the weakest ones and leave only the strongest. Never pull the seedlings out, you’ll disturb the good one. Zinnias prefer well-drained, moderately rich soil, with plenty of organic matter.

If you would like to plant them in your garden, invert the pot, loosen the soil and carefully extricate the entire shaped soil in the pot. Do not remove this soil from the roots. Plant it as is a foot apart, the plants being too close together also encourages mildew formation.

The Pinwheel series was our daughter’s favorite and as an extra bonus it’s resistant to mildew. If your children are too impatient to wait the 75 to 90 says from seed to bloom, you might want to try the Thumbelina series, which does it in only 50 days. She also liked the Peter Pan series of zinnias, which comes in scarlet, orange, cream, and gold in color.

Some research is definitely suggested before you embark on your zinnia adventure, since the blooms can be as small as one inch to six inches in diameter, and the stalks can be anywhere from a foot to three feet tall.

A final note with regard to growing beautiful zinnias. Some say that a compost-enriched soil with plenty of rotted manure is enough for your garden. Sara and I believe that plants need additional nourishment. We use 100% organic fertilizers by Advanced Nutrients, and our garden is the envy of the neighborhood.

Melissa said...

Go for it Zinnia's are some of the easiest to grow by seed. They are in the sunflower family. They also re-seed themselves easily too.

firefly said...

I do nasturtiums, morning glories, sweet peas, and other things from seed if they're hard to find as seedlings. Otherwise, I agree -- it's a lot of work, starting in March when you're still likely to have to shovel snow.

There is a recipe around for a powdery mildew spray that uses baking soda and soap (among other things) and I've had some success with it on tuberous begonias and bee balm. It changes the pH of the leaf surface so the mildew can't grow.

Sue said...

Last year I bought zinnias from the garden centre. they were nice but nothing special. This year I've grown them from the seeds I collected from those plants and they've been phenomenal. I wrote about them in my blog in July, but since then the number of blooms has tripled - and not a sign of mildew. We had a long cold winter this year, so I didn't put the seeds in till April. But they grow so fast, you don't need a long season.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad i found your blog . . .i've "favorited" it to check back later.
I love your photography too.