Sunday, August 31, 2008

Garden Muse Day: September Apples

The Apple Orchard

Come let us watch the sun go down
and walk in twilight through the orchard's green.
Does it not seem as if we had for long
collected, saved and harbored within us
old memories? To find releases and seek
new hopes, remembering half-forgotten joys,
mingled with darkness coming from within,
as we randomly voice our thoughts aloud
wandering beneath these harvest-laden trees
reminiscent of Durer woodcuts, branches
which, bent under the fully ripened fruit,
wait patiently, trying to outlast, to
serve another season's hundred days of toil,
straining, uncomplaining, by not breaking
but succeeding, even though the burden
should at times seem almost past endurance.
Not to falter! Not to be found wanting!

Thus must it be, when willingly you strive
throughout a long and uncomplaining life,
committed to one goal: to give yourself!
And silently to grow and to bear fruit.

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Garden Muse Day is brought to you on the first of each month by Carolyn Gail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago. (I'm a little early, but I wanted to post this before Labor Day.)

I had an entirely different poem planned for today, but when I searched for it on a poem site, I found this one instead. Not as full of the images of ripened apples and the coming fall, this poem instead has a wonderful message, I think.

I have two apple trees--not an orchard--which seem to produce an abundance of apples every other year. This year conditions must have been just right, because the branches seem to groan under the weight of all the fruit. I have been waiting to make sure they were completely ripe, but quite a few have already fallen from the tree and have been mashed into unwilling compost by the lawn mower. This week I will pick some, and if they are indeed ripe enough, I'll try to make use of them all. I'm not sure what variety they are--a Jonathan or something akin to it, I think, because they are better cooking apples than "eating" apples. I plan to make a lot of applesauce, but there will be enough for apple cake, apple bread, and my children's favorite--old-fashioned apple crisp. Ymmmm....the smell of cinnamon is already in the air!

More apples . . . but of course these won't be made into applesauce! The flowering crabapple trees have been full of fruit for several weeks. Years ago, my mother used to pick crabapples from a relative's trees and make crabapple jelly. Those crabapples were much bigger than these, but I still can't help but think how much work was put into each jar of that jelly. These fruits instead will provide a banquet for the birds who have already been enjoying the feast.

"A mind always employed is always happy. This is the true secret, the grand recipe, for felicity."
---Thomas Jefferson

"The strongest bond of human sympathy outside the family relation should be one uniting working people of all nations and tongues and kindreds."
--Abraham Lincoln

Have a happy and safe Labor Day!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

ABC Wednesday: Floating up, up, and away!

F is for . . .

. . .Floating away high in the sky.

Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?
Would you like to glide in my beautiful balloon?
We could float among the stars together, you and I.
For we can fly.
We can fly!

Up, up and away, in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon!
The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon.
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon.
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky,
For we can fly.

We can fly! . . .

----Jimmy Webb

A few weeks ago on a warm and still summer evening, my husband tapped on the kitchen window and told me to come outside. There in the sky, floating lazily over our house and the nearby fields was this beautiful hot-air balloon. I immediately thought of this song sung by the Fifth Dimension, which brought back memories of listening to it on an eight-track tape in my husband's first car while we were dating. I've always wanted to go up in a hot-air balloon, despite my fear of heights. Floating slowly in the sky high above the earth seems like the perfect way to spend a summer evening. This is going on my personal "bucket list"!

ABC Wednesdays are brought to you by Mrs. Nesbitt.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Weekend That Wasn't (And other gardening disappointments)

Photo courtesy of

I apologize to everyone for not visiting the past few days, but I was supposed to be gone for a long weekend with my husband. The key word here is supposed, because as it turned out, I was gone for less than 24 hours. My husband, who really, really needs a vacation but is not easily persuaded to leave home, and I had made an impulsive decision to take off for the weekend. I've always wanted to visit Galena, Illinois, which is described as a quaint town overlooking the Mississippi River with historic buildings and interesting shops. It's about a four-hour drive from our house, which meant we would have almost three days to spend just relaxing and enjoying the sights. Other than seeing Galena, we had no set itinerary, so if something else struck our interest, we could change our plans and see where the road took us. We left Thursday morning, in no hurry to get anywhere, taking a spontaneous turn off the highway onto more scenic back roads to visit a site along the way and to have a relaxing lunch in a German-themed cafe. But about an hour from Galena, my husband received a call that he had to return to work the next morning to take care of an important work-related situation.

"What do you mean we have to turn around and go home???" I couldn't believe it, but there was nothing else he could do. To describe my disappointment is beyond my scope of writing talent here. It wasn't my husband's fault, but let's just say he suffered my silent rage. We had just come to the Great River Road, a highway that winds along the eastern edge of the Mississippi River, but instead of enjoying the sights, my mind raced between thoughts of alternatives--including dropping my husband off at the nearest bus station to find his own way home--and the frustrating realization that the weekend I had anticipated was not going to materialize.

By the time we got home that evening, I had sunk into a morass of self-pity that lasted for at least 36 hours. Friday morning I awoke still feeling blue, but left my suitcase packed in the hopes that Husband would come home from work saying, "let's take off today anyway." But, of course, he didn't, and a couple other distressing issues came up Friday that compounded my mood. I felt so bad that I didn't even want to read blogs, which shows you how down in the dumps I was! I slept a lot, watched a couple of movies on TV, and refused to cook. Husband tiptoed around me all day, needless to say.

Life is full of disappointments, of course, and I know none of you want to listen to me wallow in self-pity, so I thought I would turn my disappointment into a topic you can all relate to--gardening disappointments. . .How's that for a segue?!

This past spring when Beckie and I attended some gardening workshops at a local garden center, I saw these scalloped wire baskets on sale and thought I would try something new this year instead of the pre-planted hanging baskets I usually buy. To plant these, you must buy some kind of liner; in this case, the center had moss liners that were pre-formed to fit this basket. Unfortunately, I only picked up one, and when I went back all I could find were the thicker cocoa mats sold in most stores.

I filled each planter with potting soil and added some slow-release fertilizer. I planted a few "Priscilla" Supertunias, Euphorbia "Diamond Frost," and Sutera "Cabana Trailing Blue" in each one. However, planting these was not as easy as it looked. According to the instructions, you can cut a hole in the sides of the mat and "side plant" for a fuller look. The Sutera, a small flowering vine, was perfect for this, I thought, but it's not easy to cut a hole in the side and stick in the plant far enough to take root without losing a bunch of soil. And the thicker cocoa mats were so thick I had to use a boxcutter, and even then had trouble getting through all the thicknesses. After cutting that mat to fit the basket, I decided to forget about side planting and plant everything in the center of that basket.

I wish I could show you a beautiful end result, but I can't. At the moment these two baskets are looking pretty "fried," so the only picture I have is one I took about a month ago. The Priscilla petunias took off pretty well, but I think I almost killed them with too much fertilizer a month ago. At the moment, the euphorbia and the sutera are really growing, but the petunias look as though they're dying. Frankly, they've never looked the way I expected. To top it off, the planters were so heavy that anytime it rained, they bent the shepherds' hooks they were on all the way to the ground. Considering the work and the money spent on plants for these baskets, I think next year I'll go back to buying my usual pre-planted ivy geraniums and just plop them into these baskets!

At the same time I bought these baskets, I also bought this "living wreath" frame. The wire frame comes complete with a moss liner. To plant it, you pop off the wire top and take off the moss topper.

Fill the inside with potting soil and add some slow-release fertilizer. Once the soil is firmly in place, you replace the moss topper and the wire top, and you're ready to plant. You must poke holes in the moss--I used a scissors--which is much easier to work with than the thick cocoa mats. You can side plant--again for a fuller effect--but I found that a little difficult, so I stuck with placing plants at different intervals around the top to fill the wreath as much as possible.

I purchased a flat of hot pink, almost violet impatiens for the wreath, and it took all 36 plants to fill the wreath. You could use any small plant you wish, but this was the sample I saw at the garden center, and I liked the finished result. The instructions that came with the wreath form weren't very clear, so I checked out some websites for more specific instructions and found many other ideas for plantings. One of the most popular was to use small sedums instead. Of course, this would be much more expensive, but perhaps you could keep the wreath for years--don't take my advice on that; I'm just guessing.

Again, the end result was not exactly what I had hoped for. I took this picture just a few weeks after planting the wreath, so it has filled out somewhat since then. But I imagined this wreath full of masses of pink blooms, and that has never happened. I've watered it frequently--a trick in itself--but the impatiens have never bloomed in the way that they usually do for me. It's hanging on my front porch, and from a distance it looks like a wreath of moss, which is not all bad, I guess. I'm not quite as disappointed in it as my baskets and will probably try it again next year. Any suggestions for increasing the blooms, though, would be appreciated!

One more, definitely minor disappointment . . .the hosta buds I showed for Bloom Day a week ago opened into these beautiful flowers on Thursday morning. I saw them but was in too much of a hurry packing for my "long weekend" to take a photo. When I thought of them again this morning and took out my camera, the blooms were already fading. Oh my goodness, one really has to "seize the day" with these blooms! The good thing, though, is that another hosta of the same variety has yet to open its buds, so I will be ready with camera in hand for that one!

To leave you with a more uplifting note, I think I have found one sure cure for a minor case of the blues. Last night I made up my mind to finally go see the movie "Mamma Mia." I was all set to go by myself because no one else was available and I thought I'd punished my husband enough. But at the last minute my oldest granddaughter, who turns 13 on Tuesday, said she'd like to go with me. She likes musicals almost as much as I do and in the last year has become my "theater date." Although the critics--mostly male, I think--didn't like the movie, I thought it was the most enjoyable movie I've seen in a long time. An upbeat plot, great music, and some comic scenes make you forget any troubles you might have and will have you leaving the theater with a smile on your face, humming the title song. Colin Firth didn't have as big a part as I had hoped, but he was still pretty funny and endearing. Pierce Brosnan can't sing, but who cares! I give him three stars for trying anyway. If you're one of the last women in the country, like me, who hasn't seen the movie, by all means take the time and see it before it leaves the theater.

And now I'm off on another trip, one that won't disappoint me--visiting all the people in Blog Land that I've missed lately. Oh, and I need to unpack that suitcase.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

From the Mighty to the Tiny

The awards have been presented, and . . . drum roll, please . . . the Gold Medal goes to Mighty Oak! Yes, the Gardening Olympics are over, and to my surprise, Mighty Oak received one of the three gold medals handed out. It's truly an overwhelming feeling to stand on the podium with that medal and hear all the cheering from the commenters. Thank you to all of you who supported us. It just shows that you can achieve your dreams if you work hard enough and wait long enough . . . like 100 years. I didn't want to appear too greedy, but I had hoped this might lead to some endorsement contracts. But Mighty Oak is the strong, silent type and feels being paid would diminish the integrity of the Olympics.

I must admit to feeling a bit sheepish after getting this award. Unlike the other competitors who worked hard to grow the perfect tomato or who demonstrated superior form in deadheading or hoeing, I cannot take any credit for this entry. I did not plant him--I may feel rather old some mornings, but I'm not that old. Nor does he ask for any special care; I merely see that his home is free of clutter and add a few bright posies at his feet during the summer. So all the credit goes to him.

Thanks to Idahogardener for sponsoring the Gardening Olympiad. She received many favorable comments and requests to make this a yearly event; if she does, I suspect there will be many more entries next year with the increased publicity. Sadly, Mighty Oak has no plans to compete again; one medal is enough reward, he says. He plans to retire to a farm (no, he's not going to Disneyland!) where he will spend his days peacefully watching the clouds go by and providing shelter for his flocks of birds.

When I finally came down from the clouds and returned to reality after cyber-hopping to Idaho and to the UK to visit VP (more on that below), I discovered that many small creatures have begun to invade my garden--most of them good, but a few I'm not so sure about. The weather here the last week and a half has been beautiful, with comfortable temperatures and no rain. But one morning last week I woke to a heavy fog and spotted this spiderweb hanging from the redbud tree.

The spider must have been off hunting, but his prey was safely imprisoned in gossamer chains. The heavy dew made it possible to see this web from 20 feet away.

After seeing the spiderweb, I thought it would be a good idea to look beyond and underneath the blooms to see what else had come to spend some time in my garden. This green bug was quite attractive, but I wasn't sure whether he was friend or foe.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered some of the leaves of the bleeding heart that he was resting on had been stripped. No doubt he was the culprit; I wasn't going to take any chances, so I promptly dispatched him to bug heaven.

The more I thought about this green insect, I became worried that he might actually be an emerald ash borer. The emerald ash borer is no laughing matter: it has attacked thousands of ash trees throughout the country. There is nothing that can be done to rid the tree of an infestation, so ultimately the tree is destroyed. Arborists and entomologists in Illinois are checking ashes diligently and closely monitoring their migration. If they would come to our area it could mean a huge loss of trees, as the ash has been a popular planting here for some years.

I checked out websites and found that, thankfully, this is not an emerald ash borer. I also checked on "What's That" and scrolled through pages and pages of beetles, but could not identify this insect. Any ideas? Perhaps it's not even a beetle.
Another mystery bug was resting on a sweet potato vine. I thought this might be another assassin bug, like the one I pictured in July, but when I compared the two pictures, they looked quite different. I'm not sure what an assassin bug eats--I keep looking for a tiny violin case with a concealed machine gun, but I haven't found one yet:)

Now this guy I can identify...

The cicadas have been out in full force for the last few weeks. I've been keeping the windows open during these cooler nights, and the cicadas have been serenading me to sleep every night.
And, of course, the bees are still busy here. This bumblebee had to be the hugest bumble I've ever seen! They do love that purple salvia. Perhaps one of our resident bee experts, like Cheryl, can tell me if this is a different variety of bumblebee.

On Sunday I noticed a small praying mantis in my zinnias--it looked like a baby, but it had turned brown. I took some close-ups, but unfortunately, I didn't have my glasses on, so they all turned out blurry. But I was much more successful in capturing this larger green one...

You can't tell from the photo, but he was at least two inches long. He's still green, so I am wondering if he is still an adolescent. Again, can you experts help me out here? Praying mantises have to be one of the easiest insects to photograph--they don't move very fast! And they are always welcome in my garden: like the toads and the dragonflies, they eat other insects, so I am always happy to see them. What was amazing, though, as I was positioning my camera for the best shot, I noticed not only this mantis, but others as well in the same plant. I counted 5 in all on this one Russian Sage! Never have I seen more than one praying mantis at a time.

And then in the same plant, there were the "usual suspects" hiding out. I wonder if this grasshopper is responsible for the holes in the leaves in many of my plants.

It's definitely butterfly season here. I have been trying very hard to capture some of them in photos, but it's not easy as I thought, despite Beckie's tips. I'm afraid I don't know the names of many butterflies, including this white one. These are in abundance around the garden here, but very difficult to photograph because they flutter about and stop for only a second on each flower.

The most common colorful butterfly here is this one, whose name I thought I knew but have now forgotten. They will land on the globe of a coneflower and drink and drink--making it much easier to photograph!

I have seen a few Monarchs and a lovely blue and black butterfly, but so far neither of them stay to visit very long. I hope to get pictures of them before the summer is over. But I did manage to capture two beauties, which someone can surely identify for me.

Isn't he a beauty? Not much of a close-up, but I liked the effect of the lavendar flowers of the Russian sage as a backdrop.

And this is some type of swallowtail, isn't it? I almost entered him in the Gardening Olympics--his balancing act on the nepeta has to rate him a 10! I really need to buy a butterfly book so I can identify all these.

Someone recently asked in their post what each of us had learned from the garden this year. I have definitely learned to take the time to notice the small details, including appreciating the insect world. And I've also learned that certain plants are the most popular attractions for the bees and the butterflies. The purple coneflower has always been billed as a butterfly and bee magnet, which has been confirmed this year. But Russian Sage and the perennial salvias are just as popular. What other plants would you recommend?

Note: I want to encourage everyone to visit Vegplotting sometime during the next few weeks. VP has opened her gardens for a virtual tour as a fundraiser for Water Aid, which provides clean water for impoverished areas around the world. The tour is free, though, and certainly worth your time: VP has to be one of the busiest and most knowledgable gardeners I "know," and she has put in a lot of time preparing for this tour. This is a rare chance to see a beautiful English garden and to donate to a worthwhile cause, if you wish. You won't want to miss it!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Gardening Olympics Late Entry!

If you have been watching the Olympics, you may have seen some sporting events that you didn't even know were considered a sport. And then there are the countries whose names you can't even pronounce--after watching the opening ceremony, I decided it might be time to take a refresher course in geography! Just today I became aware of another category of events--the Gardening Olympics. They are sponsored by Idahogardener and open to everyone--you don't even have to pass a qualifying heat! All entrants are asked to post the best of their garden in whatever category they wish, but they are restricted to just three entries.

We here at the Prairie are in a rural area, so we're a little backward, just a little out of step with world events and the latest fashions. We also have a small population so fielding a large delegation was impossible on such short notice (besides, our leader is rather disorganized). However, in the spirit of international cooperation and harmony, we are sending a few delegates, even though they haven't had time to train.

And so, waving the Prairie flag proudly, please welcome our three competitors:

First, in the category of "Best Yellow Hollyhock," Alcea yellowus:

She gained advantage over other entries from the Prairie after Mr. McGregor's Daughter referred to her as "pristine." We just hope this didn't inflate her ego too much, causing her to stumble in the finals.

Secondly, for "Best use of a Birdhouse other than for birds," we present Callibrachoa "Cherry Pink."

We hope that she stays hydrated during the competition, as she tends to fade quickly otherwise. Hopefully, the weather in Idaho is not too hot or dry.

Finally, our third entry is in the weightlifting category for "Best Shade Tree," Quercus Alba (though the surname is a bit questionable--his birth certificate has yet to be found).

Though we are a small garden, we have high hopes for this competitor. He's been in training for at least 100 years, and his stamina indicates he may be able to compete in many Olympics to come. Perhaps we're too hopeful, but if Croatia can field the best water polo team*, who's to say our tiny duchy can't have a gold medal winner as well!

(*Croatia has not won the medal yet; in fact, they were beaten by the U.S. yesterday, but they are regarded as the #1 team in the world.)

You have just until midnight tonight to send your entries, but that is Mountain Time, so you still have a few hours left. Idaho Gardener will be the sole judge, and she has assured the Olympic Commission that she will be impartial.

My apologies to Carol at May Dreams and Mr. McGregor's Daughter, as I assured them I wouldn't be entering and would cheer them on instead. But I just got caught up in the excitement. Besides, I think we have entered different categories, which is good, because they certainly look like the favorites in their competitions. And I will cheer them from the sidelines anyway during their events.

Let the competition begin!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Garden Bloom Day: August

Is it Bloom Day already? Where has the last month gone? When I was teaching, August was the shortest month of the year. I would try to pack as many activities as possible in the last few weeks of summer vacation, but time would always run out. Now I don't fret so much about the end of the summer, but August still seems to fly by. Since this Bloom Day has snuck up on me, come with me for a quick stroll around the garden to see what is blooming. Please ignore any weeds you might see--I've been a very lazy gardener the last few weeks.

Many of the flowers I showed in July are still blooming, including the purple coneflowers. A few are beginning to fade, but most are still putting on a show. Other plants still blooming are the nepeta, "Walker's Low"; the salvias, "May Night" and "East Friesland"; baby's breath; Russian sage; "Moonbeam" coreopsis; and a few re-blooming Stella D'oros--but I know you don't want to see those again:) Also, the red Knock-out roses are sending out new growth and mustering a few new blooms now that the worst of the Japanese beetle onslaught is over.

We won't walk all the way down the lane to the roadside garden; if you didn't see the zinnias blooming there on Wednesday, stroll (scroll) down there when you leave. Instead, let me just show you this photo I took earlier this week of the Victoria Blue salvia beginning to bloom amidst the coneflowers. They are planted in front of the coneflowers, but are struggling for attention this year because the coneflowers have really spread and the lilies in front have grown so much as well. I may have to do some cutting back once those flowers begin to fade, because the salvia will bloom till frost and will provide the only color in that area this fall.

Here's another planting of the Victoria blues near the house. You can see how intense the violet-blue color of this flower is. I think it's much prettier than the perennials, don't you?

Let's walk over to the shade garden for a few minutes. Most of the hosta blooms are fading away, but you can see that this large hosta--unnamed, of course--is just sending up some buds. There's another one to the right; I think these could be some stunning blooms.

What is this? Oh my goodness, the primroses I planted this spring are starting to bloom again. I thought they only bloomed in the spring??

When did this caldium pop up? This is the second of six bulbs I planted more than two months ago that has suddenly appeared. At this rate, the last of them may appear just in time for me to dig them up this fall!

Finally--the last foxglove is blooming. This is the first photo of the foxgloves that turned out well. I was beginning to believe the fairies were putting a hex on my camera for disturbing their hiding places.

We'll take a look at my container plantings another time, but do stop to look at this basket of double impatiens. I love these flowers--don't you think they look like miniature roses?

You can see there are a few plants getting ready for their autumn debut. The sedum "Autumn Joy" has developed its flowers that will slowly turn to pink and then burgundy as the weather cools.

And this mystery plant I have been watching since spring is beginning to blossom so that I can finally identify it--an aster! I have no idea what variety it is, since I don't even remember planting it last year! But I won't complain; I'm glad to welcome any fall entries in the garden.

Have I shown you this before? I planted a small memorial spot for my late dog, Roco, which I will tell you about at a later time. For now, though, I just want to brag about this Shasta daisy, "Becky," which has been blooming non-stop since June and shows no signs of stopping for awhile. I've never had much luck with daisies before, but "Becky" was the Perennial of the Year a few years ago, I believe, and definitely has lived up to expectations.

Let's pop over to the vegetable garden for a moment; lots of weeds blooming here, but I wanted to show you the blooms on the tomato plants. They certainly look promising, don't they? But now take a look at the rest of the plant...

Unfortunately, nearly all my tomato plants are beginning to wilt, with the leaves steadily turning brown. I bought disease-resistant varieties, so this was totally unexpected. After doing some research, I think the problem was caused by all the rain we had earlier this summer. Tomatoes need "consistent watering," according to all the articles, not flooding one week and no rain the next. There are lots of fruits on the vines right now, but I doubt I'm going to get the bumper crop for putting up juice and sauce that I was planning on. Do you know if there is anything I can do to salvage these plants?

Oh well, let's move on to happier topics. We're now in the "back forty," as I like to call this area. It's a circular area between the house and the outbuildings; there's no garden here, but as you can see, I stick some plants here until I decide where to put them permanently. You can see the false sunflower tucked into this corner has finally taken hold and is blooming nicely. Oh yes, I know they can be invasive--Beckie, who has worked hard for years to eradicate this flower from her garden, gave me the start. But I have a lot of room here, and if the sunflower spreads, it may choke out some weeds and give my husband less lawn to mow. Besides, I'm thinking of turning this area into sort of "wild" garden anyway.

Of course, this is where the original hollyhocks were planted as well. Judging by this bud, they're not done blooming yet. I planted the passalong hollyhocks from my mother here, too, and they've been a little later in blooming. You'll notice the pink ones, the white, the red, the dark purple/burgundy, and . . .

. . . what is this? Could this be the elusive yellow hollyhock Jodi has been pining for? Look closely; that's not white or pale pink--it definitely is yellow!

Well, that was a pleasant surprise. I think that's all that is new in the garden right now, except . . . .just a minute--what is that bloom over there?

Oh my goodness, a "Naked Lady"! I have seen these on Lisa's and other blogs lately and commented how I wished I had some. Wherever did it come from?? I know I didn't plant it. Could this have been here all this time, and I just never took the time to come out here and notice it blooming before? We always called these "Surprise Lilies"--this one has certainly surprised me!

I know it's time to go and there are other blog gardens to visit. I'm so glad you took the time to stroll around the garden with me; I might never have noticed some of my own blooms otherwise!

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is sponsored the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Be sure to visit her for many other Bloom Day posts.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Zinnia*

Call them "common flowers" or "Grandma's Flowers," the zinnia is an old-fashioned flower that is hard to beat in the garden. They're easy to grow from seed, bloom for a long time, and come in every color imaginable. A few weeks ago I visited a local plant center to check out their end-of-the season bargains. A branch of a very nice garden center in a nearby town, the stand is business only during the summer, so by late July they drastically cut prices to get rid of inventory. I picked up a new sedum and a few smaller sedums, but I couldn't pass up the zinnias--$1.00 for a large pot of five!

I split up the two pots I purchased, planting some in bare spots in the garden and then filled in a couple pots that needed a little extra color.

The past few years my zinnia plantings have been confined to the "Profusion" series. The Profusions are limited in available colors, but as their name suggests, they're prolific bloomers. They're smaller than most zinnias, but are perfect for container plantings. I am not fond of orange flowers (sorry, Frances), but these orange profusions are so showy and combine well with yellow lantana and the yellow celosia in this pot.

Not as easy to find as the oranges, the cherry pink Profusion is my favorite, because it's pink, of course! I use them in containers, but my green-thumbed aunt planted them as a border along her fence a year ago, and they spread out to cover the whole area and grew to a foot tall or more.

This is another "cherry pink" planted in another pot--from the same four-pack as the one above! The only explanation I can come up with for its very different appearance is that this pot is in the shade most of the day.

Besides the oranges and pinks, this earthy fall color is also available if you're patient or lazy enough like me. Ha, ha, just checking to see if you were paying attention--obviously, I need to do some deadheading.

The only other color available in the Profusion series that I know of is white. I had to hunt a little harder for these, and by the time I found a few packs of the whites they were on their last legs. But, despite a slow start, they've recovered nicely and provide a border of white in front of my "Oranges and Lemons" gaillardia in the roadside flower bed.

Zinnias can be started from seed indoors in early spring or sown directly in the ground once all danger of frost is past. After seeing a post of Lisa's in early spring, I decided a stand of taller zinnias would be perfect at the back of my roadside flowerbed. After a dismal failure at starting seeds indoors, I sprinkled a packet of seeds here, only to have them flooded out, I thought, by the torrential rains in early June. They're obviously tough plants, because many of them survived the flood and have just blossomed in the last two weeks.

This packet of seeds was called "Fruit Smoothie," described as "a cooling color combo of intense 3" double blooms" that grow to 30-36" tall. The flowers are definitely vivid shades of orange...

...yellow peeking out here...

or the perfect shade of lavender. I must have used the rest of another packet of seeds also, because I do have a few red ones as well.

All in all, I have been very happy with the "pop" of bright color they provide in the back of this flowerbed. They may be not be exotic, but it's easy to see why the zinnia has been popular for years. I think we should call it a classic.

* The title, in case you don't recognize it, is a shameless rip-off of Wallace Stevens' poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."