Zinnias always find their way into my garden. Even though I have gradually changed most of my flower borders to mainly perennials, I cannot resist having some zinnias, either tucked into a flower bed somewhere or grown in a row in the vegetable patch. One reason that I like zinnias is that they make great cut flowers, and I like creating flower arrangements for exhibition, to give to friends or to enjoy in my own home. They are perfect for this as they are stiff and sturdy, so they stay where they are placed in the arrangement. They are long lasting as cut flowers and a zinnia arrangement will last a week if properly cared for.
I do not grow the massive dahlia-flowered zinnias whose huge blooms are simply too large to create an ordinary-size arrangement. I choose varieties with smaller blooms – still double – but ranging from three to eight cm in diameter. One favourite – “Persian Carpet,” has double flowers that come in stripes and bicolours in shades of yellow, gold and maroon. These grow about 25 cm tall and can be planted in the ground or used in containers. They have nice long, wiry stems.
The “Cut and Come” series – another favourite– has double, five-cm blooms produced on long stems. “Benary’s Giants” produces 10-cm blooms which is just about as big as I want zinnia blooms to be, but this variety won the Cut Flower of the Year distinction, so it has all the properties I look for in a cut flower. I also have grown “Envy,” which is an unusual zinnia because its fully double six-cm blooms are pure lime green. Last year I grew a new variety called “Queen Red Lime” and I was thrilled with it. The blooms are about six cm in diameter and dusty rose with lime centres – very unusual and very effective in flower arrangements. This year I am trying “Uproar Rose,” which produces eight-to 10-cm blooms that are fully double and magenta rose.
Zinnias can be direct seeded, but I start mine early indoors to induce earlier bloom. They like lots of sun, rich soil and adequate moisture. Deadheading is a must. They do not compete well when crowded by other plants so they are best grown in a row or in clumps where they do not have to compete shoulder to shoulder with their neighbours.
If you want vivid colour, give zinnias a try next spring and add some brilliance to the garden. – Albert Parsons writes from