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

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

Several of the colors in that first chart look definitely "off" on my monitor, also. I think the violet may be named with respect to the flower, rather than the prism spectrum. I agree with you about the chocolate being off. It is too light and orangey. For chocolate, I think of a Hershey's chocolate bar, and in the HTML table the colors they call Sienna or Saddle Brown come closer to a "true" Chocolate. I, too, see only a slight difference between their "Magenta" and "Fuschia". Maybe we should be looking at Pantone color charts. They are what magazines and book publishers refer to.

One of the first "successful" zinnia crosses I made was back in 2006 in Maine when I crossed a scabiosa flowered zinnia with a large Whirligig. The result had a flower form I hadn't seen before in a zinnia, and I referred to it then as "sunflower flowered", because of the huge fat center it had, composed of "scabi" type florets, "piled high". I don't have an established strain of sunflower flowered zinnias yet, but I am seeing specimens of them fairly frequently in my scabi-derived recombinants. A recent one is pictured here, in which the full, almost hemispherical center is evident.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Pantone color charts

Good idea. I'l look into it for next year.

Of course, this year, for my purposes, it is almost enough to say
"Oh Wow, COOL !! C O L O R S "

If I get smart, I will start saving more digital photos of colors I want to hark back to.

This year, I only have a few categories:
that one yellow plant with single petals
the orange ones
pinky-light-purply Lilliput EHH I don't care for the color but like the form and how they last in a vase
That one darker purple plant with single petals

This photo has a few marigolds, but does not show the darker-purple single-petaled plant.

The very first thing that disapeared in the F2 was exotic form and size from Giant Catus and fantasy varieties.

BTW - I found that "Liliput" actually is the form I've been looking for, if I go by seed packet photos. I think that is another strain I should add to my raw material.

Corey


This message was edited Oct 30, 2010 5:06 PM

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Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

A Google Images search for Lilliput zinnias gives quite a few pictures, not all of which are representative.

http://www.google.com/images?as_q=lilliput+zinnia+&hl=en&biw=1280&bih=825&btnG=Google+Search&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=&imgtype=&imgsz=&imgw=&imgh=&imgar=&as_filetype=&imgc=&as_sitesearch=&as_rights=&safe=images&as_st=y

An Images search for pom pom zinnia also yields some similar flower forms.

http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&as_st=y&tbs=isch:1&&sa=X&ei=wuPMTPzSJcWclgei-LzkCA&ved=0CCUQBSgA&q=pom+pom+zinnia&spell=1&biw=1280&bih=825

I'm personally not a fan of that flower type, but that is purely a matter of personal preferences and a lot of people do like it. It is one of the classic zinnia flower forms.

Incidentally, we had a killing freeze the morning of October 29th, so I will be showing pictures taken in the last week or two for a while, and "same day" pictures of zinnia blooms won't be available for a while. I took the humidity dome cover off of a tray of zinnia cuttings this morning, since I could see through the "clear" sides of the pots that roots had formed. So my first crop of indoor zinnias for this Winter is beginning to "hatch". This recent (pre-freeze) bloom is intermediate between what I call "echinacea flowered" and "sunflower flowered".

ZM

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Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Exactly! The two upper corners of the first link are what I liked best in my first year of planting, and want to get back to. Now that I know I can pull them oput of a packet, I need new goals, like size, straight stems, mixed colors, flame-pattern colors, whatever.

One nice thing about them is they last for ages in a vase, but many of my Zinnias do that! WSometimes I even see them dry in the vase with colors partly intact!

I see that we have almost opposite tastes in flower forms: I like compact "balls", and many of your blooms sprawl out over an extended area. I think yours give more lattitude for variation!

I do have small packets of "California Giant" and "Persian Carpet" for genetic variety. And maybe growing Columbines will get me interested in elaborate bloom forms.

Corey

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

"Now that I know I can pull them out of a packet, I need new goals, like size, straight stems, mixed colors, flame-pattern colors, whatever."

I enjoy new goals myself, and I look forward to my zinnia gardening next year with anticipation of some of the new things I might get. But there can be satisfaction in minor quality improvements, too. The cumulative effect of merely saving seeds from your favorites can build up to significant progress in a very few generations. And along the way, you become more perceptive of the different traits that zinnias can show you. Zinnias never cease to surprise me.

I now notice the angle of attachment of side branches to the main stem. An acute angle seems to give a stronger joint than a right-angled attachment. And I am developing a preference for longer leaves with sharper points. And there is some variation in the hairs on the stems in the branches.

"I see that we have almost opposite tastes in flower forms: I like compact "balls", and many of your blooms sprawl out over an extended area. I think yours give more latitude for variation!"

Our overall preferences in zinnia flower form are rather opposite. I respect that. In general, I do like for the flowers to spread out with lots of "air" between the petals. I like to be able to "see through" the flower because it is so open in structure.

However, just today I saved seeds from a specimen that was very much like a Cut-and-Come-Again, with a multiplicity of ball-like blooms. Even its hemispherical plant form echoed the spherical theme. And the previous installment of this "It can be fun...Part 3" message thread led off with a very ball-like bloom. Even some of my recent scabiosa flowered breeders have a very compact bloom structure, like the specimen in this picture.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I like the "two-phase" aspect of that bloom, as if a curled-petal double bloom were sitting on top of a flat-petal, single, daisy-like bloom.

Before I expanded the thumbnail, I thought it was two spheres, one sitting on top of another, which it had squashed a little - like a double-scoop ice cream cone.

This may seem a contradiction, but I confidently expect to be frequently surprised by what comes out of recombining inbred strains that have similar forms. Millions of genes plus nature's unlimited inventiveness always throw up "rogues" even within an old, very-inbred line.

And even if that goes slowly, I still get to enjoy cheerful flowers and brighten my home and yard. And if I get bored, one year I'll just plant the giant catus strains closer to the "ball zinnias" and leave the nets off. The year after that, I don't expect to be bored!

"Infinite diversity in infinite combinations."

Actually, the most valuable trait for my situation will be selected for automatically and unavoidably. Zinnias that will go to seed before fall rains rot the blooms will be the only kind I can save seed from. And those that mature many seeds after cutting, in vases indoors, will be strongly selected for.

>> Our overall preferences in zinnia flower form are rather opposite. I respect that. In general, I do like for the flowers to spread out with lots of "air" between the petals. I like to be able to "see through" the flower because it is so open in structure.

I'm very glad that other people are inventing or discovering pretty things that I would not have thought to pursue. Being able to say "Wow!" about someone else's work is the best of both worlds (they do the work, and I get to enjoy the result!)

I really hope that your hobby produces something unique, spectacular, popular and (eventually) stable, so that I can order 1,000 seeds of "Zinnia Zen Explosion" from Hazzards. Then, when visitors to my garden say "Wow!", I can say "I know the gardener who developed that - we chatted online a lot."

Corey


(Clint) Medina, TN(Zone 7b)

I really like the Shaggy Dog zinnias! Way to go!

McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

Zen Man: I read with interest your hypridizing experiments, and wish I could grow some of them. Have you considered offering a mixed packet of your seeds on the sales section of DG?

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Caitlin,

I am really doing zinnia breeding for fun, as a hobby, and not for profit. And, besides, my seeds don't come true enough to satisfy the average zinnia grower. If a few years in the future I have some reasonably dependable strains, I might consider selling some. But I suspect that going commercial would take the fun out of it. I would be much more open to trading seeds with fellow zinnia breeders. That could be a win-win, and avoid the headaches of commercialism.

Incidentally, I have been excited by several new zinnias this year, including this one, which I tentatively call a "Spider Toothy". It has a totally new flower form for zinnias. I have been fortunate enough to have several other "toothy zinnias" and I am inter-crossing them. I am cautiously optimistic that I will be well on my way to a new strain of zinnias with this flower form by next year. And I look forward to crossing Toothy zinnias with other zinnia flower forms as a precursor to creating more new flower forms to come.

ZM

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McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

Yes, I understand! Maybe I could interest you in a trade of...something? artwork? for a mixed unmarked bag of seeds? The ones you post just look so exciting!

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Caitlin,

Excuse my delay in answering you. Things have been busy here. I sent you a D-Mail just now. This is a picture of a pair of blooms on an "aster flowered" recombinant. I particularly like this specimen, so I have been giving it full breeder status, with hand pollination. Even though only two blooms show in the picture, there are several more blooms on the plant. I have been working toward producing an Aster Flowered strain of zinnias, with longer narrower petals than the commercial "dahlia flowered" zinnias have.

ZM

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South Hamilton, MA

& a lovely color as well

McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

Shaggy Dog and Scabi-form are very appealing. A photo-mosaic of the varied forms you have made would be interesting.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

That plum colored marigold form is a recuring form at random with the zinnias I grown for the past 6 or 7 years from seeds I kept from my own garden, Is that common as the color seems to be? Although the form never seems to breed true.
These are some interesting info pages Thanks for sharing. OH stopped in after talking with corey. Helpful fellow. j

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

j,

"Is that common as the color seems to be?"

The color is fairly common, but the marigold flower form is very rare in zinnias. In fact, I have never seen the marigold flower form in any zinnia that did not have scabiosa flowered ancestry. When I first saw the scabiosa flowered zinnias years ago, I was unimpressed by their small flower size. I crossed them with larger flowered zinnias in an effort to increase their size, but I was surprised and delighted by some of the new flower forms that appeared in their recombinants.

"Although the form never seems to breed true."

They certainly don't breed 100% true. Even the commercial Candy Mix strain has that problem. But I cull and remove the off-type ones and intercross the ones that show desirable scabiosa influenced flower forms, and I get a reasonably good yield of "scabi" recombinants. And I have been seeing some unexpected desirable new zinnia traits in the scabi offspring that don't relate to the flower form.

For example, the zinnia pictured here (with my shorthand code of E13) was grown from a seed from a specimen coded as C72, and C72 was described in my notebook as a "semi-echinacea flowered magenta pink". So it was a scabi recombinant grown from a petal seed from a previous scabi coded as C46. (With scabis, I sometimes distinguish between petal seeds, which could be cross pollinated, and floret seeds, which are almost always selfed.) The flowers on this zinnia were a rather common medium-sized cactus flowered form. It had a good orange color, and it wasn't taking up space from any nearby choice specimens, so I spared it while I was culling that planting, and pretty much ignored it for over a month.

Then I noticed that its plant was spreading like a shrub in a very un-zinnia-like fashion, so I changed my opinion of it, gave it breeder status, and assigned the next-in-line code of E13 to it. It continued to sprawl, eventually reaching over 5 feet across in some directions. It produced dozens of blooms. It had very little pollen, so I wasn't able to self it a lot, but I did cross pollinate it with a variety of my breeders. I am curious to see if its shrub-like plant habit shows up in any of its progeny next year. I may plant a few of its seeds in my indoor zinnia garden this Winter, although I have no idea how I would care for a 5-foot zinnia shrub in my basement under fluorescent lights. I have never had a zinnia plant like this before, so it adds to the suspense in my zinnia breeding hobby. I haven't decided if a shrub plant habit is even a good thing in a zinnia, but it adds interest to next year's zinnia gardening.

ZM


This message was edited Oct 26, 2011 9:08 AM

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South Hamilton, MA

I should think it would be a great form for gardens especially if you come up with the plant habit in different colors. Here's to it happening again.

McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

I love your rag mop/ shaggy dog zinnias! I wish ours didn't succumb to the first hint of frost.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Caitlin,

I really like the rag mop/shaggy dog zinnias, too. I will continue to breed for that flower form type. The attached picture shows a toothy bi-color whose petals hung down in an unusual way. It bloomed late last Summer. I will be raising its progeny next year, along with a lot of progeny of the original shaggy dog. If I can get a decent number of rag mop flowers (I like your name for them), I can inter-cross them and get more variety and colors in that flower form.

ZM

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Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Lucy,

"...especially if you come up with the plant habit in different colors."

And I would like to get the shrub zinnia in different flower forms, as well. Toward that end, I crossed E13 with a variety of my breeders, including this pictured zinnia, designated as E2, that had unusual tubular petals, shaped like little trumpets. Unlike some other zinnias with tubular petals that I have had in the past, E2 had all of its flowers with the same consistent unique flower form. Fortunately E2 had a lot of blooms on its plant and produced quite a lot of pollen.

I crossed E2 with a wide variety of my breeders, and I can hardly wait to see what those hybrids will look like. And how will the trumpet petal genes recombine with other petal traits, including scabious, toothy and bi-colored, in subsequent re-hybridized generations? Ultimately, I would like to get zinnias whose petals are very large open trumpets, almost like each petal being a morning glory blossom. Maybe E2 can be the starting point for that venture. I am entering some unexplored territory with the trumpet petal zinnia hybrids.

ZM

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Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

I forgot to say the zinnias formentioned are beautiful,hope there available somtime,and thanks to the zen man for making some of it happen.
j

South Hamilton, MA

Interesting form & good color.

McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

Just out of curiosity, where do you dab the pollen? It looks much more complicated than breeding daylilies.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Caitlin,

Breeding zinnias is not at all complicated. At the base of each zinnia petal, there is a yellow forked "tendril", which is the stigma for that petal. You simply apply the pollen to the stigma. In about three weeks there will be a viable seed attached to that petal. The yellow stigmas show up particularly well against the purple petals in this picture. As you can see, the stigmas are readily accessible, with no "surgery" required. You can pollinate or cross-pollinate a lot of zinnia seeds in only a few minutes.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

So you can cross more than one variety on a bloom if you wanted to? But of course, keeping track would be a nightmare - one would brush the same pollen on all of the stigmas? Do you cover your opening blooms in some way to keep the bees from getting there first? How many different kinds are you working with; they probably don't have names, just seedling A x seedling B etc. or 2010 pink shaggy x 2009 pink shrub, etc.?

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi Caitlin,

"So you can cross more than one variety on a bloom if you wanted to?"

Yes indeed. I usually do use more than one kind of pollen on a bloom, based partly on availability of fresh pollen, and partly on my "strategy" for that particular zinnia plant. On any given day, I usually use the same kind of pollen on the open stigmas on a particular bloom. For example, on one of my zinnia breeders, I knew that the lower petals were pollinated with my trumpet flowered breeder, while the upper petals were pollinated with selected aster flowered zinnias. But I made no attempt to label or designate individual petals. I suppose that could be done, but the record keeping would be horrendous, as you guessed. Sometimes, from the appearance of the hybrid and knowledge of the mother seed parent, you can make a good guess about the male pollen donor.

"Do you cover your opening blooms in some way to keep the bees from getting there first?"

Yes, I use "hairnets" of various designs, as needed. This was an odd hot and dry summer and, for some reason there were very few bees in July and August. So I didn't bother. But then in September the bees showed up, honey bees, carpenter bees, and bumblebees, so I netted my best breeders, both to keep the bees from getting pollen, and to prevent them from randomly pollinating my breeders. Incidentally, the zinnia nets are also a good way to protect your zinnia seeds from seed eating birds.

"How many different kinds are you working with; they probably don't have names...?"

All of my breeders for this year have a code beginning with the letter E. A few of my more unique breeders also get a name, like "Buff Baby" or "Master Aster" or whatever comes to mind for that particular special specimen. I am currently shucking seeds from E90. I will probably be continuing the E series until the end of the year indoors. Any indoor or outdoor specimens designated in 2012 will start with the letter F. I got serious about the zinnia hobby in 2006 and started coding my selected specimens with a simple number, like 1, 2, 3, etc. I frequently get a second generation of zinnias outdoors in the same year, and so in 2006 the progeny of 1 were labelled as 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, etc.

In 2007 I realized that my labels would be unwieldy if I continued with the complete ancestry scheme, so I "started over" with A1, A2, A3, etc. My 2008 labels were B1, B2, B3, etc, my 2009 labels began with C, my 2010 labels began with D, and my labels this year all begin with E. I keep all the info for each label in a notebook, so that the labels that I attach to the plants can be small with just the code. That way I have the maternal ancestry of each breeder in my notebook. The male ancestry of each breeder is usually uncertain.

"How many different kinds are you working with...?"

Approximately 100 breeders are chosen for intensive pollination and cross-pollination in any given year. Each year I seem to plant more zinnias. I planted about a thousand zinnias last year and about two thousand zinnias this year. Both years I culled out and removed about 90 percent of them, and designated only a small fraction of the remainder as breeders.

Incidentally, I prefer to use Kelly forceps, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly_forceps#Kelly_forceps like in the attached picture, to pick pollen florets and rub them on the target stigmas. Indoors, when the pollen just tends to pile up in the center of the florets, I frequently use a small watercolor brush to dip into the pollen and apply it.

ZM

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McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

Very interesting! The indoor pollen - you pick the bloom that you want to use for pollen? Do you keep it in the fridge and use the pollen on outdoor plants? Do you have a flickr page or other site where you keep photos of your experiments?

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi Caitlin,

"The indoor pollen - you pick the bloom that you want to use for pollen? Do you keep it in the fridge and use the pollen on outdoor plants?"

I won't go into the details why, but zinnia pollen is good for only a few hours after it is released. So by the time I am pollinating outdoor plants, my indoor operation has shut down for the season. It's too bad that zinnia pollen is so perishable, otherwise we could mail it back and forth among fellow zinnia breeders.

Pollination in the indoors phase is particularly convenient for several reasons. There are no bees or winds to disturb the pollen as it is pushed out of the florets, and you can set two zinnia pots side-by-side for very convenient pollen transfer. I have had some very high seed yields from indoors cross-pollinated zinnias. Incidentally, a zinnia bloom takes two or three weeks to develop fully, so you can spend several weeks pollinating and re-pollinating a zinnia bloom, if you are so inclined.

Each day, more petals with receptive stigmas emerge, and a zinnia stigma can remain receptive for over a week. A stigma that is successfully pollinated withers and dies within a day or two, signalling you of your success with it. But if you didn't succeed, you will have repeated opportunities to try again with it. With a little persistence you can get a seed at the base of nearly all of the petals of a zinnia flowerhead.

"Do you have a flickr page or other site where you keep photos of your experiments?"

I don't have a site where my pictures are directly available for public viewing. I do imbed links to numerous pictures over in the "It can be fun to breed your own zinnias" message series over in GardenWeb's Annuals forum.

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/annuals/msg0923414924384.html

We are up to Part 17 over at GW. Like here, the "It can be fun" message parts there are cross-linked head-to-tail and tail-to-head so that, with a little (or a lot of) patience, you can read and view the whole message series. Unlike here, GardenWeb allows pictures to be imbedded directly in message bodies, which has some advantages and some disadvantages.

It is predicted to rain here tomorrow, so I am saving a few remaining brownheads of zinnia seeds today. That will pretty much end my outdoor zinnia operations for the season. But my indoor phase is just starting again, with lots of interesting zinnia projects to consider.

ZM

McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

So you grow some zinnia indoors in pots? They probably need a very sunny window, but since you are in AZ you have this year round. I would kind of like to read the whole thread you have posted, if I can figure out how to do it over a period of time. I wonder if anyone has tried to breed hardier zinnias. Probably a lost cause!

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi Caitlin,

I do grow zinnias indoors in pots, but not in a sunny window (I am in eastern Kansas, not Arizona). I use banks of bright fluorescent lights in our basement. Obviously I can't grow nearly as many zinnias inside as outside. I can grow a thousand or two zinnias outside, while I can grow only a few dozen zinnias inside. But they can be choice breeders, and they can add a generation or two to my yearly zinnia growing. And give me a pleasant brightly lit Winter hobby.

"I wonder if anyone has tried to breed hardier zinnias. Probably a lost cause!"

Probably. But it is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility, if you consider possible inter-species zinnia hybridization. The genus Zinnia consists of 19 species of annual herbs or perennial shrubs or subshrubs. Six of those species are shrubs or subshrubs, and they are all in Zinnia subgenus Diplothrix. The only species in Zinnia subgenus Diplothrix that is cultivated extensively as an ornamental is the Rocky Mountain Zinnia, Z. grandiflora.

The Rocky Mountain Zinnia is a perennial subshrub that is cold hardy to U.S. Zone 4 and it is also drought tolerant. So some zinnia species can be fairly cold hardy, but not the Zinnia violaceas (also known as Zinnia elegans) that I am working with. As far as I know, no one has tried crossing Zinnia elegans with the Rocky Mountain Zinnia. I think it might take some high tech bio-engineering to make that cross work. I'm not ready to tackle anything like that, just yet. And I am not sure that hardy zinnias would be a good thing, anyway. However, when I watched my "shrub zinnia" develop, I thought of those six species of wild shrub zinnias. Attached is another picture of my "shrub zinnia", taken before a killing frost got it. So it wasn't cold hardy.

ZM

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Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I heard of some rush-rush breeding program that alternated between Northern and Southern hemisphere so they could get in two generations per year.

I forget what species it was.

Between a late, cold spring and a very cool summer, my zinnias were late and stunted this year.

Corey

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

"Between a late, cold spring and a very cool summer, my zinnias were late and stunted this year. "

Our weather here was also not the best year for zinnias. We had a cool Spring and a dry Summer and Fall, none of which was to the liking of my zinnias. My zinnias were more than a foot taller last year.

The climate in your area (Everett, Washington) is not well suited for garden zinnias (Z. elegans, Z. marylandica, and Z. angustifolia), which are basically hot weather plants. Your average high temperatures for June, July, August, and September are 68, 73, 74, and 69 respectively. Your mild climate is excellent for many things, but it is far from ideal for zinnias. If they have enough water, zinnias actually thrive in hot weather.

However, if you are saving seeds from your better zinnias, you are in effect breeding zinnia strains that are better adapted to your growing conditions. I started my zinnia hobby seriously in Maine back in 2005, and my zinnias adapted to Maine's weather. (Zinnias are native to Mexico.) I even had "volunteer" zinnias that self-seeded and came up in the Spring after overwintering in ground that was frozen rock solid and sub zero for extended periods. I was amazed that they could survive that. When we moved to Kansas back in the Winter of 2008 I brought some strains of zinnia seeds that were seriously confused by the abrupt change in climate.

I don't know if the climate "shock" had anything to do with it, but it wasn't until I grew my Maine strains here in Kansas that I noticed the "toothy" petal ends, like in the accompanying picture. I had over a dozen "toothy" specimens this year, so I inter-crossed them and I plan to grow a small garden of them next year, hoping to be able to select further improved examples of this flower form.

ZM

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Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I suspected as much, even though I did have a few years of bushy, fairly vigorous Zinnias. I think we actually had some warm days that year!

I was so unimpressed with Benary Giants in a cool summer that I may go back to my saved seeds (two years of growth in my garden). But I may give the BGs another chance in coastal WA before giving the rest away.

Good luck with your toothy Mainiac staruns!

Corey

McGregor, IA(Zone 4b)

I had a great zinnia plant this summer that got a lot of water from a spraying leaky hose that went right by where it was growing. It wasn't mildewed at all, rather lush and green and a very profuse bloomer. I have heard that you can prevent mildew with a milk spray. I always thought that too much humidity was the cause of mildew. Your previous zinnia threads are interesting, I especially like the reverse bicolor (lighter center) So many interesting variations!

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi Caitlin,

"I always thought that too much humidity was the cause of mildew."

There is a little bit of an urban myth about Powdery Mildew and Zinnias. Water can actually inhibit Powdery Mildew in zinnias.

http://www.arcamax.com/gardening/s-1960-227172

Overhead sprinkling actually may reduce the spread of powdery mildew, because it washes spores off the plant. Also, if spores land in water, they die.

http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7493.html

"I especially like the reverse bicolor (lighter center)"

Me too. It is fairly easy to get white tips on the ends of the petals, but it is very rare to get white at the base of the petals. There are a lot of untapped bicolor and tricolor color patterns in zinnias, and finding them is an interesting challenge. I would like to get a whole strain of zinnias with white petal bases, like in the attached picture, but with various colors on the petal ends. That is going to take some doing. I was very surprised at the appearance of my red over white specimen. White petal ends are very common.

ZM

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Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi Corey,

"I may go back to my saved seeds (two years of growth in my garden). But I may give the BGs another chance..."

Benary Giants aren't a favorite of mine, mainly because they are bred so specially for the commercial cutflower growers. But you might grow both, and cross them. I like Burpee's Burbeeana Giants, and Burpee's Hybrids for large flowers. The zinnias in this picture were a cross between the two in the hope of getting larger flowered zinnias on more bush-like plants. The pink one in the left foreground did a fair job of meeting that objective.

And, of course, I like the Whirligig strain for its endless color pattern variations. l also like the scabiosa flowered zinnias, but they are kind of problematic because so many of their commercial strains have such high percentages of off-type specimens.

ZM

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Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I'm always amazed and impressed by the "mop-head" and "spidery" forms you create. My very favorite was the coloration of the "freaky-streaky explosion in a paint factory" bloom.

From catalogs, I thought the BG and Oklahoma varieties would have more "ball-like" or spherical blooms, but not for me, this year. They had more of the flat daisy pattern I like least. Could cold conditions or insufficent fertilizer and compost make a "double" bloom come out "single"?

I'm starting to think that "Liliput" are closest to what I want.

It's funny: that was what my memory said, but pictures I saw in online seed catalogs made me think thast Liliput were flat and Benary Giants spherical. Now I think the opposite, from blooms that grew this year (very cold spring and summer).

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

Ball-like or spherical zinnia blooms (like in this attached picture, which I first showed quite some time ago) can have a nice look, particularly if they are on a similarly shaped plant, a bush that has a more spherical or hemispherical dome shape.

"Could cold conditions or insufficent fertilizer and compost make a "double" bloom come out "single"?"

I think so. The Park Seed catalog suggested that transplanting a double zinnia could make it single. If you dig a zinnia up, and move it somewhere else, there is certainly loss of roots and disturbance to the remaining roots (root hairs are quite delicate). But I don't do that with my zinnias that I start indoors. I let them get a little root-bound in the pot, and then the whole rootball slips out as an integral unit that I can place in the ground with no root disturbance at all.

There is a lot to learn about the art and the science of growing zinnias. I continue to learn more in that area all the time, and realize that I have a lot more to learn and a lot of experimentation to do.

Back to the round ball zinnia bloom subject, I think they can look quite good and that could be a very good flower form. However, I prefer that petals not be so massively overlapping as they are in this picture. I would like to have spherical blooms with spikey or narrow petals, to let a lot more air into the bloom. The classic zinnia blooms, with petals that closely overlap like shingles, provide a lot of concealed internal space in which bad bugs (like aphids and thrips) can live. And a dark, hidden environment between closely packed petals could be favorable to some molds and mildews.

But I do like the overall ball shape of the zinnia in this picture. Zinnias tend to vary and be genetically malleable, so that you can influence them a lot by selecting the ones you like and selfing and inter-crossing them, and save those seeds. Oklahoma is an improved Cut-and-Come-Again zinnia, and they can have some nice ball-like blooms. That would be something that you could select for, to get ever more spherical blooms.

"I'm starting to think that "Lilliput" are closest to what I want."

Their blooms are ball-like, but they have small blooms. I grew some Gem zinnias this year, which are basically Lilliputs on a more compact plant, and they had disappointingly tiny blooms. A lot of their blooms were only one-half to three quarters of an inch in diameter. You can get larger ball-like zinnias without being forced into really tiny flowers. It's not easy to show more than one picture at a time here on Dave's Garden, so I will elaborate on this in additional messages, mainly because I need to show some additional illustrative pictures.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

Back to the subject of your zinnia blooms being flat and daisy-like this year, instead of spherical. When a zinnia bloom first opens, it is single, because it hasn't had time to put out more than one row of petals. As it adds more rows of petals, the bloom becomes deeper and the overall shape of the flower becomes more spherical. All of the blooms in this picture are on the same zinnia plant, which in this case is a marigold flowered zinnia similar to the carnation-flowered marigolds. Those blooms are in various stages of development. So it may be that your zinnias this year just didn't have enough time or energy to form as many rows of petals as they could have.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Corey,

For a zinnia to have a ball-like or spherical flower shape, its first few rows of petals must hang down, like in the picture I showed up at October 26, 2011 05:37 PM or in the picture here.

ZM

Thumbnail by Zen_Man
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

You can tell early in the development of a zinnia bloom whether it has the potential to form a deep bloom.

Thumbnail by Zen_Man

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