March 6, 2010

A Bounty of Cut Flowers


Wading waist-deep through tall zinnias to select stems to bring indoors, I felt euphoric! Until summer 2009, my garden was based on perennials, shrubs and trees. A lovely view—I hesitated to cut flowers from perennials to bring indoors because I didn't want to destroy that view.

Yes, I've had container and a few bedding annuals, but for the first time, I ventured into growing a cutting garden.

I planted zinnias en masse in the cottage garden. From our front porch rocking chairs, The Musician and I sipped our morning coffee, petted Charm and watched butterflies, bees and hummingbirds drawn to the blooms all summer long. The more blooms that I cut, the more the zinnias bloomed. Some of the zinnias were taller than me. I was in gardener heaven!

Is this the feeling that veggie gardeners have when they harvest their bounty? Gathering my harvest of blooms was one of the most rewarding experiences that I've had as a gardener.

I can no longer imagine my garden without zinnias.

The success of growing zinnias was so rewarding, that I have seeds to sow again this summer. The Benary's Giant Zinnias (36 inches high) are exemplary performers, and I have that variety in several colors—golden yellow, wine, white and lilac.

Another variety, the dahlia-flowered 'Purple Prince' was gorgeous and is worth repeating. I know that I'm heading down the garden path of a zinnia addiction!

Many gardeners report that deer eat zinnias, but I successfully grew a few of the Benary's Giant in test patches throughout my deer resistant garden, mixed with salvia and agastache. If food is in short supply, the deer may eat anything, even a yucca!

I'm expanding my zinnia-growing trials in the outer gardens. Renee's Garden has graciously provided zinnia 'Cool Crayon Colors' and 'Berry Basket' to trial with the deer. I will use a few seeds of each in the cottage garden as my protected example of the bloom colors.

As for growing zinnias, I think they are foolproof. Sow the seeds in a sunny location, keep the soil moist and you will quickly see green seedlings. Thin the seedlings by gently lifting and transplanting any that are too close together. I probably planted mine too thickly, but didn't have a problem with mildew.

I planted in succession, several weeks apart, beginning the last of May. My last seeds were sown in mid-July. The succession planting kept me in flowers until frost.

The Benary's Giant were such prolific bloomers, that I don't think the succession planting is necessary as long as you keep cutting flowers for yourself. The stems are long and strong and can take the weight of multiple branches that result from the cuttings. My zinnias wanted to lean south toward the summer sun, but I didn't stake any of them.

Since zinnias attract the pollinators, I had a few interesting colors created by nature!

For that reason, I cannot precisely identify the blooms in my garden. By September, I had so many colors that I never planted—often mixed on the same plant.

A few garden forum friends actually play around with breeding their own zinnias. The colors and forms are stunning! One gardener has several pastel shades that I hope will someday be sold as seeds to the rest of us.

No matter the colors or the form, all of the tall zinnias are beautiful to me. Armloads of blooms to bring indoors makes a gardener happy!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

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Defining Your Home, Garden & Travel

Home, garden and travel tips by Freda Cameron

My name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. A freelance garden and travel writer with roots in technology/marketing strategy at SAS Institute Inc. I'm loving my life whether at home, in the garden or traveling. I garden in harmony with bees, butterflies and....deer and rabbits! Zone 7b. My wonderful husband (aka "The Musician") helps with the heavy lifting.

My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

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Paris, France; September 2013