- Author: Betsy Lunde
This is the year I’ve decided to plant annuals in the backyard (or as it now known our private marsh). When you are living 6 feet above sea level as most of Suisun City is, you have a yard with tendency toward standing water.
Last year, the game plan was putting pots – big ones – on the patio so when walking down from the deck, one would pass between pots full of color, pots full of dwarf orange trees, and other delightful plants. Okay, so it was very cold, frigid even and the orange and lemon trees have a massive display of dead branches right now; and yes, to your question, we did cover them every night! So on to the game plan for the summer . . .
The last time I grew zinnias (Zinnia elegans) I was 6 years old and planting seeds around my Grandmother’s tree in her backyard. Since I got blooms, I was happy, Grandma was happy, and so were the neighbor’s dogs!
Fast forward many years and many seed catalogs to this past winter. Zowie, wowie! I couldn’t believe the color combinations and arrangements that are available now. Grabbing pen and paper, I made copious notes about which to order.
I always thought that a zinnia was a zinnia -no difference except for coloring – wrong! According to the new Sunset Western Gardening Book, there are seven (7) different varieties of these longtime favorites for colorful, round flowers. Two are perennial: Z. acerosa which prefers a warmer clime than in our zone and Z. grandiflora which does. Unfortunately, the perennials come in a single color only (white rays veined in green on the underside for Z. acerosa and bright yellow with an orange eye for the Z. grandifora.
Looking over the paragraph above, I decided to check my seed packets to see what I had purchased. Only 2 packets are listed as elegans while all the others merely state names: ‘Purple Prince’ which is purple; ‘Candy mixed’ which are solid colors; ‘Queen Red Lime’ described as 3” blooms with maroon-red petals and lime centers ( I tried getting seeds from 3 seed companies before I was able to get a packet; ‘Picks Carmine Rose’; Zinnia profusion Apricot hybrid; Zinnia zahara ‘Starlight Rose’ with a white ray w/ a pink splash; “Peppermint Improved mix” with blots of color on the white rays as though one had flicked a paintbrush toward the flowers; and then ‘Zowie Yellow Flame’, bright yellow rays with splashes of brilliant red in the center.
I think I shall have the brightest of annual color in the neighborhood. I just have to remember that there is nothing to be gained by planting early, as zinnias are somewhat like tomatoes – they merely wait in place until the weather and soil warm up. Rather than start the seeds in the house and go through the hardening-off process and then transplanting, I’ll plant the seeds directly in the garden. THEN, begins the lookout for snails and slugs. I will be ready!