Calling all "judges" for the annual DG County Fair! Vote for your favorites here!

It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 4

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Greetings to all,

Welcome to this continuing message thread. The previous part of this ongoing series, It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 3, has become rather long and slow to load, so we are continuing it here for a fresh start. If you want, you can access the Part 3 thread through this link http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/969046/ and it, in turn, has a link to the part before it. As always, your participation and comments here are most welcome.

We have already had some frost damage here and our gardening season will end soon in a killing frost, but I have enjoyed puttering around in my zinnia garden this summer. I grew some of my hybrids from seed saved last year. And I made some new crosses this year. All in all, it was a good year. And I am optimistic that next year will be even better. I continue to be interested in the new variations of zinnias that appear.

The attached picture is of one of my hybrids of hybrids of hybrids. It includes a combination of genes from over a dozen ancestors. I refer to it as my "pink shaggy dog", because it has extra long petals that hang down. If those long dangling petals stood out reasonably straight, it would be about 8 inches in diameter, which would be huge for a zinnia, but still I like the informal shaggy look that the dangling petals give. I would like to develop a strain of these "shaggy dogs" in all colors. I will be working toward that goal, and several other zinnia-breeding goals, next year. And I will be attempting some limited zinnia growing indoors under fluorescent lights this Winter. More later.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

This is the original bloom on the "Pink Shaggy Dog".

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi again,

This shows some more blooms on the "shaggy dog". As you can see, the younger blooms don't have the lengthened petals, but as the bloom develops, the petals lengthen and dangle.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
South Hamilton, MA

Hi I have seen some what I call 'regular' zinnias as we drive near our house. They seem to have finished bloom, no froat as yet. I lost a few of my iris seedlings to the heat without ever having seen them. disgusting. irisMA

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I'm at the "Amateur Hour" level of breeding Zinnia hybrids. I planted a varied bunch of varieties two years ago, and collected random-pollinated seeds. I re-planted them last year, and pulled out all but the orange and yellow ones halfway through the season. I was pleased that the colors didn't just become totally muddy. The pink-purple range seem to have blurred together, but my favorites, yellow and orange are coming through cleanly.

I am casually selecting for those two colors, and also seeing if I can pick out the reddest of the pink-pruple blooms, and get back to a redder, darker strain. Just curious.

Then will try to get orange and yellow in a more compact wrinkled bloom (like a thimble, or a small African Crackerjack Marigold form). Now they are all tall and very branched. I would like to get them less branching, so i can cut stems for a vase without wasting 2-4 buds for each bloom I cut.

The bloom forms now vary, but mostly pretty dense blooms, like thimbles, not like dust mops, like these:
'Aztec Sunset'
'Desert Sun'
'Benary's'
'Magellan'

This year I am collecting fairly-random-pollinated seeds, keeping seed from each seed mother separate. I'll have some clean seed for orange blooms, since two widely-separated beds each had just one Zinnia in it. Next year, mesh nets and expose only one plant at a time to pollinators. Thanks for the idea about mesh nets to keep bees out, not just for collecting seeds about to pop!

I'm mainly posting because I discovered (it was news to me) that I can harvest some seemingly-mature seeds from my cut-flower vases indoors. These pinkish-through-purplish blooms were cut and brought indoors while still fresh. Then they sat in water until they started to darken or droop. Then I dried them "just to see what would happen".

I'm getting 6-12 dark, well-formed seeds per bloom , despite their never fully ripening "on the vine"!
The mature seeds come from the outer rim of the bloom.

There's a lot of "silk" which seem to be very immature proto-seeds in the center of the bloom.

I got one interesting hybrid form that has not yet recurred, I guess it won't breed true (see photo).

Corey

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

"I got one interesting hybrid form that has not yet recurred, I guess it won't breed true..."

Chuckle. I do have my doubts about that "frog-petaled" zinnia breeding true. Kudos for originality, and for being a skillful frog trainer.

Your discovery that you can get viable zinnia seeds from zinnia cut flowers in vases could prove to be very useful. Thanks for passing that information on. I have had a lot of success growing zinnias from "green seeds" that I plucked from flowers still maturing on the zinnia plant. So I guess it makes sense that green seeds from zinnias in a vase could also prove viable.

"Then will try to get orange and yellow in a more compact wrinkled bloom (like a thimble, or a small African Crackerjack Marigold form)."

You might want to grow some of the scabiosa flowered zinnias to get that "crackerjack marigold" look. This is a picture of one of my scabious types that has some resemblance to a marigold, and with some selection and re-selection, it could move in that direction. Maybe some crossing between scabious and other zinnias could recombine into something close to your goal.

"I'm at the "Amateur Hour" level of breeding Zinnia hybrids."

The techniques you describe can be very effective, and efficient. I look forward to hearing more about what you are doing.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
South Hamilton, MA

???? Would the form be more striking in another color since we already have marigolds? Just looking for something even more striking in the garden.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Lucy,

Glad to have you back. It's true that zinnias have a wider color range than marigolds, but the colors that Corey listed as his favorites are yellow and orange and those colors are available in both marigolds and zinnias. Zinnias can mimic the flower forms of marigolds in a much wider color range, but not their fine dark green foliage.

Actually, the most difficult goal that Corey has is the plant form with long stems originating from the base, instead of the multi-branched form that zinnias (and marigolds) tend to have. Corey is breeding for cut flowers, so he wants each flower to have its own long stem. That's not going to be easy to achieve, and when he achieves it, he is really going to have something unique in a plant form. I have seen some strange zinnia plant forms, so what Corey is going for isn't necessarily impossible.

"I have seen some what I call 'regular' zinnias as we drive near our house. They seem to have finished bloom, no frost as yet."

Zinnias decline rapidly in the Fall, even before a frost ends the growing season. I used to think that the decline was because they were setting seed. But, in recent years, I have seen zinnia specimens that continued to put out youthful looking blooms even though many older blooms on the plant had matured, set seed, and even turned brown with a dead stem. So the act of seed setting need not spell the end for a zinnia plant, or its flowering season. However, in the cool short-day weather of Fall, zinnias can be literally "eaten up" by powdery mildew (or other foliage diseases), before the actual event of a killing freeze. That may be why the zinnias you saw seemed to have finished blooming.

How about a plum-colored marigold-flowered zinnia?

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

I am bringing in some zinnia cuttings from some of my favorite "breeder" zinnias, to rescue them from the coming killing frost, which could happen pretty much any day (or night) now.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
South Hamilton, MA

The plum is delicious.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Lucy,

Thanks. In the event that I get an extra good zinnia, I can take cuttings from it to help save it and multiply it and get more seeds from it. However, the speed at which you can multiply a zinnia by cuttings is somewhat limited, and Tissue Culture offers an alternate and possibly more effective way to propagate zinnias asexually. For that reason, I have decided to learn to culture zinnias by tissue culture, and I have accumulated some of the paraphernalia to do that. Some of the TC things that I have, including some chemicals and books, do not show in the picture.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

For my first attempts at zinnia tissue culture, I used the conventional Murashige and Skoog (MS) formula for the medium with added sugar. Benzylaminopurine (BAP) was added as a plant growth hormone to stimulate shoot formation. (The strategy is: first the shoots, and then the roots.) I also included some PPM (a proprietary Plant Preservative Mixture) to help prevent fungal and bacterial contamination.

This is all standard stuff in the commercial "Kitchen Culture Kit" http://www.kitchenculturekit.com/index.htm for amateur hobbyist tissue culture, and is known to work for getting shoots from African Violet leaves. I don't know yet if it works for zinnias, but I have put some small pieces (called "explants") of zinnia tissue on some of the medium to see what happens.

So far, nothing much, as you can see in the picture. I may have killed the zinnia tissue during the "disinfesting" stage, in which I treated it the same as African Violet leaves, and swished it briefly in 70-percent alcohol followed by a 30-minute soak in 10-percent bleach, followed by a rinse in distilled water, and then placement on the agar-gelled culture medium.

I used denatured ethyl alcohol, because I didn't have any non-denatured ethanol, and that may have been harmful. I may have left the tissue too long in the bleach. Lots of variables to experiment with, include different things to use to disinfect the explants, and different ways of taking the explants. I will continue my TC experiments this Winter with explants taken from my cutting plants. In the meantime, I will be taking more cuttings, before my zinnias get killed by a freeze.

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned)

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

There is a very-high-proof ethanol available at some liquor stores, called something like "White Lightning". Not a joke, and I think the proof was over 150 (over 75%).

>> viable zinnia seeds from zinnia cut flowers in vases

Well, they LOOK viable. Dark and thick. When I've plucked a few more apart, I'll do a sprouting viability-test.

I don't know if they matured on the plant over just a few weeks, or matured in the vase (or even while drying).

>> You might want to grow some of the scabiosa flowered zinnias to get that "crackerjack marigold" look.

Thank you! I certainly will try that. My current stash of new genes to try out are these, bought "because the seed packet looked cool", not exactly a scientific program of breeding!

Zinnia "California Giant Mix" Zinnia elegans Territorial and Botanical Interests
Zinnia "Persian Carpet" Zinnia haageana (Z. Mexicana)
Zinnia "Cut & Come Again" Zinnia elegans pumila


>> Would the form be more striking in another color since we already have marigolds?

That's true, but I like the "cheerful" look of orange, yellow and gold. "Scarlet" would be cool, or multi-colors, but then I would have to create new traits that were not present in the F1s, which I think would be much harder. But in line with my "lazy policy", I have started selecting the darkest reds and least-blue of the purples.

I originally had some small crinkled purple/pinkish blooms that I thought came from the seed packet labelled "Lilliput" because the blooms were so small. Like thimbles.

But no. "Lilliput" meant "dwarf plants". And all my survivors are tall! Now I have no idea what strain or seed mix gave me the original bloom form I liked. So why not breed back to it? And make it a color I like better?

My "breeding program" up to now has maximized laziness, and thank you for calling that "efficiency"! Can I get you help me update my resume?

Branching:

Rats. Oh, well. I will keep looking for less branching individuals, but I might have to broaden my strategy. Figure out what culture techniques discourage branching (like the opposite of pinching back). Maybe planting densely? Less watering? I thought I was already crowding my babies more than was ideal. Maybe just cut them freely with longer "zig-zag" stems, and see which individuals resist that best and replensih the wasted buds fastest.

Zen_Man mentioned growth regulators that limited height indoors ...

One thing I really like about Zinnias as cut flowers is how long they last in a vase. And sometimes, if I forget to water, they dry out without darkening the color for a long time. That might be another trait to pursue! "Color-fast dried-flower-Zinnias". Maybe in a few years.

Your plan to do some TC is ambitious! Good luck!

Corey

P.S. When I saw those 4 tree frogs like sardines, I thought I must be hallucinating. But no! Or else the camera hallucinated the same thing.

Zinnia elegans treefrogianna

South Hamilton, MA

TC is beyond me, guys but 'Bravo' for working with it.

Hannibal, NY(Zone 6a)

Corey, just had to tell you that pic with the four frogs has to be the cutest ever! please consider entering it in the photo contest when it comes up.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I absolutely will (enter the frog-pollinators in the photo contest).

But how will I convince them I didn't photoshop it? I didn't believe it myself when I saw them - I have never seen a frog-in-a-flower before, and didn't realize there WERE tree frogs where I lived. They must be awfully quite!

Corey

Hannibal, NY(Zone 6a)

I think it's they need to prove you did photoshop it, not the other way around. It looks real to me, and really cute. Plus all the frogs look different. Just enter it, geez, LOL.

We have some of the strangest tree frogs here. their hands look like the sticky ones like you can buy fake ones of. They hang on the side of the house. So, I know they can be in some really odd places.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

You probably won't be able to get viable hybrids between the Persian Carpets and the others, but don't let me stop you from trying. If bi-colors and tricolors interest you, try the Whirligigs. Some Whirligig strains have "run out" to mostly single flowers, while other strains still have a good percentage of fully double flowers. Both kinds are worth growing, and full of surprises, including a few mutants.

"That's true, but I like the "cheerful" look of orange, yellow and gold. "Scarlet" would be cool, or multi-colors..."

There are several shades of red in the scabiosa flowered strains, including scarlet. The Whirligigs that I mentioned have many multicolor combinations, and I have crossed them with other zinnias, including scabiosa types.

"...but then I would have to create new traits that were not present in the F1s, which I think would be much harder."

Actually, that can be easier than you might think. For example, the "shaggy dog" flower form that I led off with here wasn't present in any of the parents or grandparents of that specimen. It arose as a unique new recombination of genes from the genes that were provided by the parents and grandparents.

The zinnia chromosomes contain a lot of genes, and the mathematical number of ways that they can be recombined is way beyond astronomical. Many of those recombinations are very similar and produce zinnias that differ only subtly from each other. But some of those recombinations can produce improbable and very unique new zinnia forms.

Growing seeds from hybrids, or crossing hybrids with each other, is something like pulling the lever on a giant slot machine that has very many different wheels instead of just a few. If you are willing to grow a lot of recombinations that result in culls and rejects, you stand a chance of "hitting a few jackpots" and getting a few specimens that are new and good and different from any of their ancestors. Zinnia breeding is a game of chance.

People usually say that you shouldn't save seeds from F1 hybrids, because the results are so unpredictable. They are unpredictable because recombinations can occur in many, many different ways. Save seeds from F1 hybrids because they are unpredictable and full of surprises.

A recent sort-of-scarlet scabiosa flowered zinnia is pictured.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Someone in another forum pointed out the "Oklahoma" series of Zinnias.
They appear to have the bloom form I'm seeking, so I'm shopping around now for trades.


>> crossing hybrids with each other, is something like pulling the lever on a giant slot machine that has very many different wheels instead of just a few.

Good analogy!

>> If you are willing to grow a lot of recombinations that result in culls and rejects,

I think that is the major challenge for me - growing enough individuals to find the rare ones. Then I'll have to pull a lot of plants, put nets on the best ones, cut off all existing possibly-polinated blooms and try to find a fast way to favor cross-polinating over selfing.

I guess a plant can self-polinate pretty easily - maybe just by shaking? Or would I have to use a big brush to shmoosh pollen from male to female parts of each bloom?

I like this too:

People usually say that you shouldn't save seeds from F1 hybrids because the results are so unpredictable.
No, you SHOULD save seeds from F1 hybrids BECAUSE they are unpredictable and full of surprises!

Corey

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

"Someone in another forum pointed out the "Oklahoma" series of Zinnias.
They appear to have the bloom form I'm seeking, so I'm shopping around now for trades."


If the trading thing isn't successful, the Hazzard's Wholesale Seed Store sells seeds in "wholesale" quantities, but doesn't have a minimum order, so it can be an economical source for the home gardener who needs quite a few seeds. Hazzard's has a good selection, including separate colors of Oklahoma zinnia. I was just now browsing there, and captured a couple of URLs with Oklahoma listings, but the links look kind of weird and might not remain viable.

http://www.hazzardsgreenhouse.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=Hazwho&Category_Code=AVIZ&Offset=580&Previous_Stack[1]=518&Previous_Stack[2]=456&Previous_Stack[3]=390&Previous_Stack[4]=322&Previous_Stack[5]=254&Previous_Stack[6]=190&Previous_Stack[7]=126&Previous_Stack[8]=62&Previous_Stack[9]=&Previous_Stack_Depth=9

http://www.hazzardsgreenhouse.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=Hazwho&Category_Code=AVIZ&Offset=640&Previous_Stack[1]=580&Previous_Stack[2]=518&Previous_Stack[3]=456&Previous_Stack[4]=390&Previous_Stack[5]=322&Previous_Stack[6]=254&Previous_Stack[7]=190&Previous_Stack[8]=126&Previous_Stack[9]=62&Previous_Stack[10]=&Previous_Stack_Depth=10

Those links work in the Preview, but if those links go bad, you can start browsing at the Hazzard's home:

http://www.hazzardsgreenhouse.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=SFNT&Store_Code=Hazwho

Oklahoma impresses me as an improved version of the old "Cut and Come Again" strain of zinnias. They are also intended to be cut flowers, so they may have stems that you like. Harris Seeds lists Oklahoma

http://www.harrisseeds.com/storefront/p-3256-zinnia-oklahoma-mix.aspx

And the Harris "professional grower description" says, "Bred specifically for the cut flower zinnia grower, Oklahoma Mix produces numerous 1 1/2 to 2" semi-double to double blooms on bushy plants. This mixture continually produces cuttable stems throughout the season, making consecutive sowings less necessary. Mixture of carmine, ivory, pink, scarlet, white, and yellow. Height: 30", 18-20" spread."

Those "cuttable" stems might be right down your alley. But they still look like Cut-and-Come-Agains to me. Incidentally, you can still find some of the heirloom Cut and Come Again strain. Hazzard's has them, 1000 seeds for $4.35 or 2000 seeds for $7.70. That's cheaper than buying them by the packet.

Talk about cheap zinnia seeds. Several years ago I bought a pound of "Burpeeana" zinnia seeds. I'll probably finish them off next year, since I plan to more than double the size of my zinnia garden.

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned)

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

You might want to take a look at the "new" Zinnia Gem strain.

http://www.hazzardsgreenhouse.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=Z3154&Category_Code=AVIZ&Store_Code=Hazwho

It has the "beehive" flower shape that you mentioned, they are described as "new", and they look pretty tidy. And Hazzard's has them in several separate colors, including my favorite, white. Incidentally, I plan to purchase some Giant Cactus White zinnia seeds from them. I like to cross white zinnias with other colors. But first I need to grow a bunch of whites and find a few really good ones.

"I guess a plant can self-pollinate pretty easily - maybe just by shaking? Or would I have to use a big brush to shmoosh pollen from male to female parts of each bloom?"

If a zinnia puts out a lot of pollen, it will do a fair job of pollinating itself, possibly with the aid of various bees. The pollen-bearing florets themselves can set floret seeds. The floret seeds look different from the petal seeds. But they can grow new plants just as well. The floret seeds are more likely to be selfed. For "scabi" type zinnias, I frequently save the petal seeds and the floret seeds separately for that reason.

Some of my zinnias, like the "dinosaur" zinnia in this picture, can put out a lot of pollen. However, if they don't put out much pollen, I help nature along by manually self pollinating as many stigmas as I can with the limited amount of pollen available. You can make the pollen go farther that way.

Incidentally, while I do frequently use an artist's brush to pollinate with indoors, for outdoor pollination I like to "pick" a floret with a favorite pair of forceps and just "brush" that floret on the stigmas that I wish to pollinate. The floret, itself, becomes the brush. (They do have a brush-like texture.) I am picking a pollen-bearing floret with my forceps in the attached picture. I crossed that dino zinnia with quite a few different "female" zinnias that weren't producing pollen at that time.

The locking forceps can be quite handy for pollinating and cross-pollinating zinnias outdoors. The locking feature keeps you from accidentally dropping the floret. (I used to do that quite a lot when using tweezers or twissors.) Forceps come in many sizes and styles. Hospitals use a lot of forceps, and the models for surgeons can be exotically expensive.

My personal favorite for zinnias is a 5-inch curved tip model. For me, it is a good compromise between having my hand too close to the stigmas for good visibility, and having my hand too far away for good control. I imagine that the size and configuration of your hand has a lot to do with the best choice of size and style of forceps. For me, everything seems to come down to some process of trial and error. I rarely do anything right the first time.

Amazon has a rich shopping ground for forceps. Their large selection of models and prices can be a bit daunting. I got all of mine from Amazon and their third party merchants, except for one large pair that I keep in my tackle box for removing hooks from fish. I think that pair came from a sporting goods store. Hobby stores usually have a few. I have one larger "specialty" pair of forceps for removing blister bugs from my zinnias. Apparently our Kansas blister bugs have a taste for zinnia pollen florets. I probably should just call the blister bug's bluff and use my fingers. Maybe I will do that next year. More later.

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned)

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thanks for all the research, and for the links!

>> Oklahoma impresses me as an improved version of the old "Cut and Come Again" strain of zinnias. They are also intended to be cut flowers

Perfect! The second time I squinted at "Cut and Come Again" photos, I thought those were pretty close to what I was seeking. But if the OK series has 1.5 to 2" blooms, that's even better than I hoped.

And "any cuttable stems" cuts several years or decades off my project's timeline!
I may wind up putting my current very-mixed strains into storage while I start over with mostly-OK genetics.

I think I will buy Hazzards' scarlet and carmine OK colors, plus yellow so I can work towrds hopefully-stable oranges and red-oranges.

2K seeds (CaCA mix?) sounds like more than enough of a bargain to support hobby research AND trading, whereas the thoguht of a POUND of flower seed just makes my head explode.

(I bought some cover crops including Fall Rye by the pound, and felt like Croesus running gold dust through his fingers and chortling.)

Before I start taking notes from Hazzards and Harris websites, what was your take? Would the Harris OK Mix be more likely to have more "straight-stem" or "less branching" genes than the Hazzards' separate colors? Or is it just "try both and see"? I suspect that curiousity will drive me towards "try both", and things will get pushed out of existing beds in order to make room for a small ocean of zinnias.

If necessary,
- I would start some lines for color from Hazzards' separates (the orange may take time to get and stabilize).
- Start culling and selecting from Harris' color-mix straighter-stems. I've assumed I have to look for cultural practices to encourage straight stems, then breed to takle advatage of those.)
- cross the best colors with the straightest stems and then select out some of the variation.
- doodle around to see what happens when I cross OK with CaCA - close out-crossing should maintain vigor and encourage surprises.

I assume that any company's strain has different gene ratios than another company's, even if they started with identical populations. Unintentional selection, for example by climate and cultural practice, ought to exert selective pressure, less than that of ruthless intentional selection, but pressure nonetheless.

I'll read your post on "Gem" after lunch ... that soup has been simmering with Anaheim and Guajillo chilli for gangerously long.

THANK YOU again. As with more-scientific research , a few days of productive research in the library can save years of research in the lab.

Corey






This message was edited Oct 23, 2010 1:18 PM

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> However, if they don't put out much pollen, I help nature along by manually
...
>> for outdoor pollination I like to "pick" a floret with a favorite pair of forceps and just "brush" that floret on the stigmas that I wish to pollinate. The floret, itself, becomes the brush. (They do have a brush-like texture.)

I still ought to have some small hemostats packed away in one of my hundreds of cardboard boxes. Control over specifc crosses is certainly going to be necessary at some point, if I want faster progress than just drifting around gradually for years.

Hmm, I'm glad I was planning to buy a new set of bifocals anyway. If I have to pollinate individual blooms by hand, blurry close-ups PLUS shaky hands don't augur well.

I'm more used to "one male flower plus a fan" pollinating the whole room. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration.

I have a lot to learn about controlled cross-polination. I think I'll start with the nets, exposing only one strain at a time, then exposing only two plants or branches that I want to cross at a time, and speaking politely to the bees and yellow jackets, pretty-please.

The maximum technicality I had planned to get into was rushing two branches together, or maybe plucking one bloom with a lot of pollen, and dusting a seed-parent branch with that blossom.

I think that learning-as-we-go is necessary to everything in life, not just gardening. But it isn't cheating for me to learn from your trials and errors and successes!

I'll try out some of your techniques starting next year. I think that I'll be doing more selection and selfing for some years, than controlled crossing. But every time I get lucky with some random cross, I will want to do as much controlled slefing and crossing with one plant as I can.

(I guess that as soon as a bloom opens, it is susceptible to bee and wind mediated pollination? I would have to strip a branch of ALL open flowers, and net it over, to get unpolinated blooms? But unopened buds could be left in place as "virgin" blooms?)

Corey

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I just ordered from Hazzards. So these are available for trade or SASE:

Zinnia Oklahoma - - - - - - Scarlet
Zinnia Oklahoma - - - - - - Golden Yellow

Zinnia Benary Giant - - - - Deep Red (4-5" Dahlia-shaped blooms)
Zinnia Benary Giant - - - - Orange

Zinnia Gem - - - - - - - - - - Orange

Zinnia Cut & Come Again - - Mix

Corey

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

It's very likely the Oklahoma Mix from Harris doesn't have better stems than the Oklahomas from Hazzards. As I recall, Hazzards also has Oklahoma Mix. It's possible that both Harris and Hazzard's get their Oklahoma Mix seeds from the same wholesale seed grower.

"I guess that as soon as a bloom opens, it is susceptible to bee and wind mediated pollination?"

It is susceptible to pollination as soon as the stigmas are exposed.

"I would have to strip a branch of ALL open flowers, and net it over, to get unpollinated blooms? But unopened buds could be left in place as "virgin" blooms?"

I don't think you need to be that careful. The honeybees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, and such (yellow jackets aren't interested in zinnias) are only interested in the pollen and the nectar in the pollen florets, and don't care about the stigmas. A zinnia that is just presenting receptive stigmas isn't interesting to them, and doesn't really need a protective net as long as it isn't producing pollen of its own. Some zinnias produce very few or no pollen bearing florets, and they are good "natural" females, because you don't have to go to the trouble of "emasculating" them for cross pollination. Incidentally, zinnia pollen is too heavy for wind pollination. I believe gravity does carry some pollen spilled from the florets down onto the stigmas below to "self" them.

Nearly all zinnias are heterozygous to a certain extent, even the so-called purified strains. So recombination comes into the play in the creation of both the pollen grains and the egg cells in the seed ovaries. So the act of "selfing" a zinnia is actually fertilizing a recombinant egg cell with a recombinant pollen grain. The so-called selfed seed is actually an F1 hybrid between the two "virtual" zinnias that produced the pollen grain and the egg cell. I use the word "virtual" because we never actually see those two zinnias -- only the result of their F1 hybrid.

If you make crosses between Oklahoma, Benary's, Gem, and Cut-and-Come-Again, and you think of those four strains as the corners of a square, you have six lines connecting four points, which means six possible inter-strain crosses, or if you take into account the direction of the crosses, then there could be twelve different male-to-female and female-to-male inter-strain cross pollinations. And that's not taking into account the complexity of the different colors. You have the opportunity to make a lot of different cross pollinations using that stock of seeds.

I usually skip the formality of netting my female breeder zinnias, and just pollinate them and put a coded label on them, for later guidance when I save the seeds. I takes only a few minutes to pollinate a zinnia. As the flower develops to add more stigmas, I return to pollinate them as well.

The actual pollination isn't much more time consuming than attaching the labels, assigning ID codes, and making journal entries about them in my notebook. There a lot of ways you can attach labels to a future seedhead. I have settled on light green velcro tape written on with an Ultra Fine Black Sharpie marker. It's easy to attach, windproof and weatherproof.

This is a recent "marigold flowered" zinnia specimen.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I have some light, cheap plastic "key tags" that I plan to use, designed for auto repair shops to loop through customer's keys, and write names on.

>> I usually skip the formality of netting my female breeder zinnias, and just pollinate them and put a coded label on them,

I don't think I understand. Without nets, wouldn't any pollen they produce be spread to every other un-veiled plant? Including other female breeders? producing unwanted crosses?

Or when you call them "female breeder zinnias", do you mean that they produce SO little pollen that bees avoid them?

Before buying several strains that already concentrate features I wnat to select for, I expected most of my first few years being self-crosses and selction. Now, I see that I'll be able to do interesting crosses the very first year.

But I'm still hoping to be able to do most things two-whole-plants at a time, or two-branches at a time (one from each plant). True, that will usually produce some crosses and some selfs in each experiment, but I had assumed it would be easier to cull 50% of grown plants, than to keep individual blooms from pollinating themselves and doing everything by hand. I guess I'll soon know if crude or lazy techniques can be made effective enough for my purposes. .

Maybe I can get some mileage out of the fact (if it is true) that some strains produce lots of pollen, and some strains hardly any. Overwhelm a plant that produces little pollen with loads from another strain that puts out lots of pollen.

.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Nearly all zinnias are heterozygous to a certain extent, even the so-called purified strains.

I find that easy to believe. Any sexually progated population has genetic variety, other than strains of lab rats that have been very strictly inbred for genrations. I can't believe that any greenhouse operation could be so restrictive as to produce piopulations 100% homozygous for every trait, or even a few!

I'm glad to hear you say that all 6 (3!) crosses of Gem-Benary-Oklahoma-CaCA are likely to be fertile. Hazzards did not say whether all were Zinnia elegans.

Funny that what would have taken years for me to produce by crossing and selcting strains that lacked the features I wanted could be short-cutted by buyinmg them from breeders who had already done that work! Now I can play variations on a theme by starting with their works.

Even more then physicists, plant breeders are like midgets standing on the shoulders of a giant, the "giant" being the entire community of gardeners and nursery people "playing around" for hundreds of years.

When I think about vegetable and cereal seed companies deliberately letting open-pollinated heriloom strains go extinct, my head explodes. Does short-sighted greed know no limits?

Corey

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

"Or when you call them "female breeder zinnias", do you mean that they produce SO little pollen that bees avoid them?"

Yes, that. Bees leave them alone if they don't have pollen. And I have got to admit, my nets worked way better in Maine, where we had gentle cool breezes in the Summer. Here in Kansas, we have a lot of hot wind, and most of the nets I deployed this year got blown off of the zinnias within a day.

I've got to change my net design to deal with Kansas wind. I still have plenty of the netting. And this Winter I will have some time on my hands. Maybe I need to build a Wind Tunnel for testing. (grin) As far as I know, nobody has put a zinnia in a wind tunnel yet. I hope I don't wind up breeding low growing zinnias, because I don't like to stoop over to pollinate them. That makes my back sore.

"When I think about vegetable and cereal seed companies deliberately letting open-pollinated heirloom strains go extinct, my head explodes. Does short-sighted greed know no limits?"

Some good varieties of zinnias have gone extinct, including some AAS winners from the 30's and 40's. There was a small flowered zinnia called "Black Ruby" that was very dark, and looked almost black under incandescent light. I would love to get that color in a giant zinnia, but, alas, no more Black Rubys.

I have done a lot of crossing with scabiosa flowered zinnias. A few decades ago there was a giant crested zinnia strain called "Howard's Crested" that was like a giant flowered version of today's scabiosa flowered zinnias. It's gone.

There was a giant flowered zinnia strain called "Crown of Gold". Each petal had a zone of golden yellow at the base, while the outer half of the petal could be any zinnia color. It was a completely different coloration from today's Whirligig types. I would love to hybridize with Crown of Golds, but they are no more. Every time I see a new zinnia bloom out, I look for that gold-based effect as a mutant. It happened once, it can happen again.

The W. Atlee Burpee Company let their own Burpeeana zinnias go extinct and only in recent years did Burpee "re-invent" them, and not too well at that. They should have at least had the foresight to save some germplasm. The original Burpeeanas had much better plants, and were available in separate colors.

The Burpee Zeniths were giant F1 hybrid cactus types, arguably better than anything that is available today. The guy who "invented" them left the company for some reason. And Burpee discontinued the Zeniths.

Oh well. There are some good new strains of zinnias available today that weren't available in "the good old days".

ZM

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Have you searched the members-only "Seed Saver's Exchange" for those lost strains? The yearly "flower" membership fee is much less than the yearly "vegetable" membership fee.

RE: "Nets in a Wind Tunnel"

They use spun fabric row covers for warmth, why not for bee protection? Consider laying big sheets of spun fabric or your netting over multiple plants. You could bury the edges in soil or weigh down the edges with 2x4s or bricks! Tent stakes, cinder blocks ... whatever it takes.

It you made it taut, you need hoops to keep the stress off the zinnias.

Since that black mesh is much more open than spun row covers, wind should affect it less.

Just a thought.

Corey

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

RE: some almost pollen-less blooms.

Hunnh, I'll have to keep my eyes open for that.

I'm starting to squint at each bloom to identify the florets, and distinguish them from all the other bells and whistles. Zinnias sure have a variety of "stuff" in their blooms.

Next, spot and recognize them dumping pollen ... while leaning a couple of feet into the raised beds.

Corey


Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

I think you are going to enjoy your raised beds. They will raise the zinnias up to a more convenient position to inspect and work with the blooms. I think I will try to mound up some borderless raised beds next year myself. They get some of the advantages of raised beds without the investment in containment. Even six inches of elevation can be an added convenience.

I will look into the members-only branch of Seed Savers Exchange. However, their "open" store is rather limited in its zinnia offerings. They do have Cut and Come Again.

"They use spun fabric row covers for warmth, why not for bee protection?"

That's a possibility. But I think I am going to have to perfect the zinnia net design. My simple design doesn't work here in windy Kansas. Maybe if I sprayed the zinnia flowers with garlic, it would repel the bees. I'm willing to think "outside the box" on this.

ZM

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Many years ago, I got a paper-printed SSE book thick as a phone book. I don't know how I qualified since I doubt I could have paid their vegetable membership fee way back then. Maybe it was less expensive, maybe I splurged.

They had a LOT of heirloom everything.

Some year when I run out of things to do in the garden (like maybe 20 years after I'm dead), I want to pay their "flower" memerbership fee and see what the members have to trade. Ideally, at that time, I would ALSO have something special to offer that I can propagate and stabilize.

Corey

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

You have raised my curiosity about the Seed Saver's Exchange. The idea of that thick book is intriguing.

This picture is another of my "marigold flowered" scabiosa types. More later. I'm still taking zinnia cuttings in advance of the killing frost, which can't be many days away now.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Going by the NOAA climate publications, the station nearest has its "50% frost date" in two days (10/27). But I am several miles closer to the water, and 300 feet lower. Who knows?

Nice gradual variation in color and petal shape! Very gracefull.

I like that kind of "demure and serene" form, but I like flashier colors. Thanks again for the tip about Hazzard's! I'm going to see if I can get some flame-colored and striped reds and oranges ... in a modest bee-hive or dome or ball shaped bloom.

The thick SSE book I once had was mainly or entirely vegetables - I was not interested in flowers then. SSE seems mostly into veggies.

I have a note here that says the annual "flower and herb" membership (FHE as opposed to SSE) used to be $10. I see that you must list what you are offering in Spetemeber, and that Yearbook is maile din late January.

To get access to their list of veggies costs $40 per year, or $25 for seniors.
http://www.seedsavers.org/Content.aspx?src=aboutus.htm

I wonder how they handle the problem where
A wants what B has
B wants what C has
C wants what D has and if you are very lucky,
D has what A wants.

I hope you don't have to establish a "presence" by offering things for a few years before old-timers want to give you things for SASE.

I remember that, a long time ago, some people would offer things if you would promise "will propagate and re-offer" some seeds from it in future years.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

"I wonder how they handle the problem where
A wants what B has
B wants what C has
C wants what D has and if you are very lucky,
D has what A wants."


Good question. My guess is that they don't handle that problem, even though its solution is so "obvious". However I seem to remember that there have been "round robin" exchanges here in Dave's Garden. I'm going to look into the Flower and Herb branch of SSE. I seem to remember years ago asking someone who had the Flower and Herb catalog to look for "Crown of Gold Zinnia" and they didn't find a listing for it. But hope springs eternal. If I grow enough zinnias, I might find a gold-based zinnia in my own zinnia patch.

Here is a pink "marigold flowered" zinnia that bloomed recently. Too bad there aren't pink marigolds.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Nice bloom!

I also wonder how the FHE or SSE manage to deal with the fact that there are so many synonyms for every plant ever cultivated. What most call "Crown of Gold Zinnia" someone else might call "Uncle Ed's Yellow Daisy"

I actually have little idea what to cal many colors.
Pinky-puplish? Mauve? Fuschia?
Gold? Orange? Dark yellow? Light orange?
Cerise? Scarlet? Carmine?

Sheeze!

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

That's a good idea about watching out for someone referring to Crown of Gold zinnias by some other name. I guess I would need to read their descriptions, looking for something that resembled the characteristics of Crown of Gold (like gold color at base of the petals).

I try to be reasonably accurate in describing a color, without trying too hard. Zinnias come in very many colors and color gradations. I've seen well over a hundred different zinnia colors. In particular, the Burpeeana Giants Mix and the Burpee Hybrids Mix come in an incredible array of un-nameable colors. It reminds me of those walls of paint chips in the paint stores.

Crossing different colors of zinnias isn't exactly like paint mixing, but it's not completely different, either. I particularly like some of the pastel colors and colors that you get when you cross a color with white. I like to cross zinnias with white zinnias, and that is one reason I am going to grow a lot of whites next year, looking for nice giant white flowers to use as breeders. And just getting an improved white strain will be nice, too.

This scabiosa flowered specimen seems to be a yellow with a lot of white in it. Maybe it is a "cream with pale cream", or perhaps some other name would be more accurate. Your warm colors project is going to present you with a whole spectrum of yellows, yellow oranges, oranges, and so on.

There is a lot to be learned about zinnia colors, and how they behave. I am not sure what you would get if you crossed an orange zinnia with a white zinnia. The best way to find out is to do it.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> walls of paint chips in the paint stores.

THAT would be the way to standardize and name colors, if all paint companies used the same names!

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

There probably is some defined list of color names for specific colors. From the standpoint of computer graphics, 8-bit RGB produces 512 different colors (8x8x8). I would be a little surprised if someone hasn't tried to name all of those 512. The HTML standard has defined names for 140 of them.

http://www.html-color-names.com/color-chart.php

I strongly suspect that zinnias can have at least 140 different colors, although obviously not some that are in that table. I think we will have to rely on genetic engineering to get a good range of blues in zinnias. Once there are blues, I think that by superposition of several colors, including a dark blue, that a zinnia color very close to black would be possible. That "Black Ruby" zinnia that I mentioned before seemed to be a superposition of dark purple and yellow. And that dark purple may have been a superposition of purple and cerise. On zinnia petals, colors "mix" by subtraction, pretty much.

Here is another attempt to associate names with RGB color values:

http://web.njit.edu/~kevin/rgb.txt.html

Here are some "tongue in cheek" color names:

http://hexhu.es/colorbyperson/john2/

I doubt that there is any practical scheme for "naming" colors so that the name conjures up an accurate mental representation of the color. For example, I would have to see a table of colors before I would know with any precision what color is specified by the name "PapayaWhip". The same applies to most of those paint chip names. Incidentally, I have seen a Burpee Hybrid zinnia specimen with essentially that "papaya whip" color.

But for me, color is just one aspect of a zinnia flower. I am also interested in the coloration of the flower, how the color or colors are distributed, and the shape of the flower, including the shape of the individual petals or florets. I like the flower in this attached picture for several reasons, including the longish rather thin and narrow petals and their "toothy" tips. I like the blended color transition from the ivory at the tips of the petals to the pink of their base, and even the pink at the very edges of the tips.

I appreciate anything that distinguishes a flower from the ordinary. One thing that I want is a near-black spider flowered zinnia with sparkling white tips on the petals. In dim light, you would see just those white tips. It will probably take me another year or two to get that one. But I've got some spider-flowered seeds and some seeds of zinnias with white petal tips. However, I don't have any near-black zinnias yet. That may take a bit of doing.

ZM


This message was edited Oct 27, 2010 9:25 PM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I really like the classy blended color transitions within each petal. I also like its form more than some of the more open "scraggly" forms.


Thanks for the links, they give me some options besides calling 1/2 my flowers "pinky-purplish".

I wonder if it's my computer monitor, or my eyes, but I disagree with the first link's "Violet". It's almost the smae as their "Hot Pink" and "Orchid", whereas I think of violet as closer to their Midnight Blue or Indigo (on my monitor).


And I only see a little difference between their "Magenta" and "Fuschia"

Another of their colors that's "just worng" is their "Chocolate". I'm going to have to check that link again on my home PC.

I was in agreement with a lot of the second site's names, until I got to violet. Maybe it's my eyes! However, I trust sunlight going through a prism and "Roy G. Biv". THAT is what I call "violet"!

I think the closest to "my violet" that I see in those links is "JIM JONES MEMORIAL GRAPE KOOL-AID", 6000BD. Or maybe "navy 000080"

I read someone's speculation that different people see far-violet in diofferent ways. Homer kept calling it the "wine-dark sea", yet those seem very different colors to me.
.
Maybe Homer's wine did not come in a box!

Corey

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.
BACK TO TOP