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."


  1. They all look great. No orange? Oh dear!

  2. I just love zinnias, and yours are beautiful! I will try the Profusion next year. I can't believe how great yours look for the end of summer. Mine are always bedraggled and the lower leaves hit by fungus. Great pictures, Rose!

  3. I love the reference to Wallace Stevens, Rose--and how great to have so many zinnias to view. They're gorgeous--I especially love the pink one with the heliotrope--I think we like similar combinations.

  4. I love seeds that can be planted directly in the ground. I usually plant them in pots, first, though, as it's easier to keep the slugs away. I usually favour cosmos but I am tempted, now, by zinnias. They look great.

  5. Hi Rose......
    I grow Zinnias for my Dad every year....I start them in the greenhouse.....they were very successful and he has a lovely display...everyone stops and admires them.....the colours he has are pink, deep red, and a pale lilac.......

    Yours are beautiful, the one I would choose is the white of course....I have never seen white here.......

    By the way, I was paying attention,

  6. That's it - the pink Profusion! That the Zinnia I have to have. I've seen it in person & it is so beautiful & the butterflies just love it. I might have to find a green one to go with it. I am now a complete Zinnia convert.

  7. Nope, Tina, no orange, except for the gaillardia. It must be because orange doesn't look good on me:)

    Morning glories, My large zinnias got a late start, so maybe that's why they're looking so good. We'll see what the end of the summer brings. I buy the Profusion zinnias as seedlings; they spread horizontally rather than grow as tall--definitely a great flower for containers or in the garden.

    Cosmo, I must confess to not knowing many of Stevens' poems; this is the only one that has stuck with me. I didn't realize until after I'd taken the picture that I photographed the dried-up heliotrope instead of what was blooming:) Pink and purple--that's my favorite combo.

    Mean mom, Glad you're back in "Blogland":) Zinnias are so easy to grow--definitely worth a try.

    Cheryl, My plan was to start them indoors, too. I'll have to get some tips from you next spring so I don't kill them all with too much water. This is my first year planting the white profusions; I've been very happy with how they've grown.
    You're a good student, Cheryl:) I hope I didn't sound patronizing about the poem--I know I have a literate group of readers--but honestly I had never read this poem myself until about 10 years ago. My background in more modern poetry is pretty weak; I guess I'm just a "Romantic" by nature, LOL.

    MMD, I wish I had pictures of my aunt's pink Profusions; you would definitely want some then. She is becoming less able physically to work in the garden, but what she has could be an ad for Miracle-Gro!

  8. Your border at the end looks lovely, such bright and happy flowers :)
    It has rained so hard today I'm surprised there are any blooms left here in our garden. The grass looks lovely and green though !!

  9. It's a good thing I live on the Coast, because I have very little luck, starting seed inside. Those look so pretty but the lavendar one is my favroite.

  10. Rose,

    I remember my Mom bragging about the 60 inch zinnias she grew many years ago. Actually, remember that long ago, I think they were 5 feet tall!

    I love zinnias and had a nice garden of them last summer. This year, ugh. I bought them at the wrong place, I guess. They're green and colorful but aren't attracting butterflies or bees like they should. I've heard of plants being sold that are "sterile".

    Next year will be different. I LOVE the colors you have. They certainly do light up dark spaces.


  11. Rose, I love the way your front garden bed is looking-went by today and noticed all the pretty zinias behind, but didn't know the white in front were profusion zinnias. I am so glad you recommended the cherry to me as it has done very well in the containers. My 'Lisa' bed of zinnias didn't do as well as I had hoped. But that was my fault for planting them in the shade. The ones I planted in other areas are doing well, but just can't bring myself to use them as cut flowers. I am going to save some of the dried heads to use for seed next year. By the way, I'm ready to go back to the Idea Garden.

  12. Suburbia, Thanks--they are bright and cheery and welcome me home each day. Hope it stops raining for you!

    Eve, Yes, you are lucky--it would be nice to be able to plant outside earlier, especially since I seem to kill the indoor seedlings:)

    Mary, 5-foot tall zinnias--wow! The ones I planted from seed are looking really good. This was supposed to be a temporary solution until I decided on the perennials I wanted. But I think I'll stick with the zinnias--$1 packet of seeds is much cheaper!

    Beckie, Glad your cherry pinks are doing so well. I can't bring myself to cut any for indoors either! Yes, yes, I'm ready for a gardening/girls' day out!

  13. wow so many colors here, pretty !

  14. Rose,

    I love zinnias and the pinks win my heart, too! This year is the first year I planted them and they are just now beginning to bloom! How I lived without them is a big question...posts like yours helped me see the light! Don't you love the butterflies they draw to a garden?

  15. Such healthy Zinnias. They always remind me of my mother who, living in a cooler, wetter climate grew them really well. It's too dry and water is very limited here so mine struggled into bloom last year and one by one gave up the ghost. Pity, but there it is. At least I could enjoy yours.

  16. I'm partial to those doubles packed with petals. Which ones do the butterflies prefer?

  17. Your zinnias look great. I love those cheerful flowers, but I always seem to have problems with mildew on them. Yours look healthy and lush. I know the profusion series seem more disease resistant than some of the others. Great pics!

  18. Rashi, Thanks, and thanks for stopping by.

    Gail, I hadn't planted zinnias for several years until this year. I don't know why either; so easy and such a beautiful show for little money.

    Arija, Climate definitely makes a difference in what we can grow. There are so many beautiful plants I'd like to have, but won't grow in my zone 5 garden. Thanks for all the info on the chicory; who knew this common "weed" had so many uses?!

    Marnie, I wish I could tell you which ones the butterflies preferred--probably the large ones rather than the smaller profusions. The problem is they're planted near some coneflowers which are the real butterfly magnets.

    PG, I've never had a problem with mildew on the Profusions. This is the first year in a long time I've planted the larger zinnias, so we'll see how they do.

  19. Where did the Fruit Smoothie Mix zinnia seeds come from? are they available for sale someplace, or must they be acquired via seedswap? Thanks! :)


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