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On Gardening: Hurricanes make you appreciate floral beauty like the old-fashioned zinnia

October 17, 2016
 
It's time to introduce your children to the beauty of the zinnia.

After a hurricane, you find beauty and pleasure in simple things and in my case it is the old-fashioned zinnia. Now I say old-fashioned because we grew them from generic seed packets so I donít really know the variety. I would say it is the zinnia you grew up with as a kid.

If you are like me that was one of the first plants you grew from seeds and you have to admit there is nothing prettier than the large flower zinnia. Over the years I have had the opportunity to grow large amounts of Benary Giant zinnias for cut flowers and I can tell you that an acre of zinnias is a breathtaking site.

I love zinnias in single colors, I love them in mixes. I love them in dahlia form and in those we call cactus. We planted our zinnias to add a little different sparkle this year if you will to our pollinator beds. Lest you have forgotten the zinnia will bring in butterflies just like the other pollinator magnets you may have. If you havenít tried them in a while it may surprise you.

So after hurricane Hermine reached us as a tropical storm and Hurricane Matthew has turned what seems to be the entire East Coast literally upside down, I do find pleasure in the large 4 to 5-inch wide zinnias, blooming their hearts out, bringing in gulf fritillaries and common buckeyes.

You may be thinking itís a little late to be talking zinnias, and it is over much of the country. They do make an excellent fall flower. Maybe the point is to remind you to introduce your children to this incredibly beautiful flower next spring. This is one flower that can create a gardener in your little one. This is one flower to introduce them to butterflies and the pleasure of having flowers on the table.

Whether you choose a package of generic zinnias sold by color or as a mix, or whether you find Benary Giants, Dreamland or the Magellan series, know they prefer full sun to really put on a dazzling performance. Prepare your beds by incorporating 3-to- 4-inches of organic matter and 2 pounds of a slow-release 12-6-6 fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed space. Direct seed, or set out transplants that you have purchased, or grown at home with little to no color showing.

Thin the seedlings to around six to eight inches for the vigorous growth that is about to occur. Mulch when the seedlings are large enough or after setting out transplants. Side-dress the young plants in six to eight weeks with light applications of the fertilizer.

Zinnias are champions for a long hot summer but they can also be sown as succession crops all the way to fall when they will partner wonderfully well with other colorful bloomers like mums, Mexican bush sage, and asters. You will notice they bloom before and after mums, and they are downright inexpensive.

At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, we have them partnered with Mystic Spires blue salvia one of the most wonderful persevering perennials we can grow. By doing this we have partnered the best of round flowers and spiky flowers for an unbeatable combination. I hope you will get to know zinnias again.

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