For years, I ignored these very popular annuals, thinking of them as low-rent versions of dahlias. I chased after dahlias instead, starting them inside in April, planting them out, staking them, attempting to overwinter the tubers, failing, rinse and repeat. I did get some lovely blooms, but not a profusion and they took their time. Eventually I started buying well-budded dahlia plants when I saw them in the garden center and stopped looking at dahlia catalogues.
Zinnias came to my attention when seedlings were offered by a gardener friend who grows hundreds in his basement. I put in a few here and there, and they did … okay. This year, though, I preordered seedlings from the Botanical Gardens and then I was seduced by a late spring offer of plugs from Select Seeds. I wound up with ‘Benary’s Giant Orange,’ (at top) ‘Queen Lime w/Blush,’(above, I think) ‘Queeny Orange Lime,’ and ‘Raspberry Limeade.’
This time I planted them in containers and they did spendidly. There’s been no mildew so far, maybe because they are not crowded by the foliage of taller plants and are getting more sun than they would in a bed. Best of all, they’ve been in bloom nonstop since late June. Butterflies love them.
I don’t bother with seeds as I do not want the trouble of a basement greenhouse and don’t want to wait for an outdoor sowing to come into bloom. Our season, even with climate change, is still rather short for that. My experience with starting from scratch with plants hasn’t been great. Maybe when I retire, I’ll get into seeds. That will be a nice hobby.
Between the zinnias, the phlox, the hydrangeas, the double rudbeckia, and dozens of other annuals, the August garden fully lives up to June and July. That’s the one thing I never got about Tony Avent, before all this catalog cover brouhaha: his tee shirts that said “Friends Don’t Let Friends Buy Annuals.” If you want to be able to look at your garden without sighing, annuals are the insurance policy you need. Especially annuals like zinnias.