November 2, 2013
Zinnias are a genus of twenty species of flowering plants of the Asteracea family, however more than one hundred different plants have been cultivated since crossbreeding them began in the nineteenth century. Zinnias, which is also its botanical name, are native to the scrub and dry grasslands of southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. Noted for their long-stemmed flowers that come in a variety of bright colors, Zinnias are named for German professor of botany Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759).
I must admit, that until I really looked at these flowers up close, I would have never paid much attention to Zinnias, as they just seemed to be too common a plant to catch my eye. However, that all changed in a big way about a month ago. I was walking to the dollar store back behind my apartment complex to get a bag of Cherry Sours, a sugar treat to soothe my sweet tooth when I noticed a neighbor’s flowers blooming. On the way back home, I stopped by to see what he had growing. Deciding they were worth photographing, I dropped off the candy and grabbed my camera and quickly went back out and fired away, shooting about 125 shots that afternoon. The closer I zoomed in on the flowers, the more amazed I became.
Thanks to my recently purchased digital camera, shooting many pictures is very inexpensive. And, as anyone who has ever taken a photograph of a flower knows that even the slightest breeze will cause a flower to sway. Moreover, the closer you get to a flower, as I definitely like to do, the more a flower sways. When you combine that with the fact that one of the side effects of the massive, nearly fatal mid-life crisis I experience seventeen years ago was to kick my life-long nearly dormant obsessive-compulsive disorder in overdrive, one can understand why I went back the next day and shot another 200 plus photos. A few days later, I was telling my local librarian this story and told her that Zinnias are now my favorite flower. She replied, “I thought Orchids were?” I could not argue with that. However, I find the inner part of this flower to be incredibly surreal looking.
Zinnias are a perennial flowering plant in frost-free climates, but are an annual everywhere else. With leaves opposite each other, their shapes range from linear to ovate, with colors from pale to middle green. The blooms come in different shapes as well, ranging from a single row of petals to a doom shape. Their colors range from purple, red, pink, orange, yellow and white to multi-colored. There are many different types of Zinnias. They come in dwarf types, quill-leaf cactus types, spider types, ranging from six inches high with a bloom less than an inch in diameter to plants four feet tall with seven-inch blooms. This plant will grow in most soil types, but thrives in humus-rich, well-watered, well-drained soils. They like the direct sun at least six hours a day; however, they will tolerate just the afternoon sun.
If grown as an annual, they can be started early indoors around mid April. Any earlier and they just might grow too large to manage as the plant germinates in only five to seven days. However, these plants are said to dislike being transplanted. If seeding is done outdoors, they should be sown in late May, after the threat of the last frost, when the soil is above sixty degrees. They will reseed themselves each year. Plant the seeds a quarter-inch deep, covered with loose soil. For bushier plants, pinch off an inch from the tips of the main stems while the plant is still young.
If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment. Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!
Steven H. Spring