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Welcome to this continuing message thread. The previous part of this ongoing series, It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 4, has over a hundred messages and 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 4 thread through this link http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1136291/ and it, in turn, has a link to the part before it. As always, your participation and comments here are most welcome.
The first of my Fall crop of zinnias is starting to bloom. Several have already qualified as "culls" and will be discarded, but the attached picture shows a "toothy" specimen that caught my eye. That picture was taken yesterday.
That zinnia has a reasonable amount of toothiness, and I used that single pollen floret to self-pollinate most of the available stigmas on this bloom. I did that by using a special pair of fine point tweezers to extract the anther bundle from the floret and touch the exposed anthers to the stigmas. That is a technique I developed indoors last Winter to make choice pollen go farther. It is enabled by a special pair of tweezers that have curved fine points.
I hope to see more toothy zinnias in my Fall crop of zinnias. I intend to self them and inter-cross them in order to build up more seeds for a big plant-out of toothy zinnias next year. My hope is, that if I grow a large number of toothy zinnias, I might find some rare specimens with an extreme amount of toothiness. At the present time, I don't know far zinnias can go in the development of this subdivided petal form.
I don't have any trumpet-petaled or tubular zinnias in the pollen-bearing stage right now (they have all gone to seed and I have harvested the seed to save them from the Finches), but there are some tubular seedlings coming on in my Fall crop. If I have the opportunity, I will make some crosses between the toothys and tubulars, both ways. I would like to see the toothy trait in some tubulars, and vice versa. More later.
It is my objective to develop a strain of the toothy zinnias in a complete range of zinnia colors, as well as two-color and three-color versions. The bi-color toothy in the attached picture had Whirligig ancestry. Today I noticed several budding toothy specimens in pastel colors. As they develop, I will post pictures of some of the more interesting or significant specimens. I will be self-pollinating them and/or cross-pollinating them. And I will out-cross some of them to other colored zinnia specimens, in order to get a wider color range of toothies in the subsequent recombinants.
I hope to build up enough toothy zinnia seed supply to make a fairly big planting of them next year. This year I have been dividing my time between expanding and improving my garden and tending my zinnia breeding, but next year my garden infrastructure should be essentially complete, which will let me devote more time to my zinnias. I intend to cross some toothies with trumpet petaled tubular flower forms to combine the toothy effect and the tubular petal effect in the same flower form. I hope to do some of those toothy/tubular crosses later this Fall.
I am looking forward to an interesting zinnia garden this year. One "new" project will be to grow more Whirligigs and select out some of the mottled and streaked specimens. I will inter-cross them for more variation. The attached pictures were taken in my Whirligig patch last year. I like their "look" better than the striped and spotted effect that the Candy Cane and Peppermint varieties have.
Thanks for the wishes for good luck. That was a surprisingly quick response. Incidentally, I did get some more toothy specimens, inter-crossed them, and saved seed from them to continue the toothy project this year. A few of those specimens are shown.
I have several zinnia projects going in a sort of multitasking mode. The aster flowered zinnias are one of them. They have decidedly longer thinner petals than "regular" zinnias, which gives them an informal look that I like. Some of them remind me of Crego asters.
Lucy, I notice that your favorite is the only one with some yellow in it. I have a long ways to go to get a complete color range into everything I am working on. I suppose "complete" for zinnias also includes green. I'll make a note to myself to plant some green zinnias this year. I intend to devote an entire separate bed to various white zinnias. White crossed with green might be good.
The drought last Summer caused me to use a lot of water watering my zinnias with an oscillatory lawn sprinkler. All that overhead watering prevented Powdery Mildew, but may have promoted some Alternaria. And, toward the end of the season, our well was starting to run dry if I left the sprinkler on for too many hours. Hopefully the water table has made some recovery.
Droughts are usually multi-year, so I anticipate an even worse problem this year. This year I may abandon the lawn sprinkler (it is awfully convenient to use, though) in favor of fabric soaker hose. It is more targeted, but is convenient only if you can leave it in place. It is a pain to have to move soaker hose around.
I am thinking of buying a 500-foot role of the fabric hose together with separate fittings so that I can custom make a soaker system. My plan is to have 4-foot wide beds with 4 rows in each bed and a soaker hose running in place down the middle of each bed to hopefully provide the needs for that bed. Then I will just move a feeder hose to connect to the stationary soaker hose in each bed and run it on a timer for that bed. That will help me "ration" our water resource in the coming drought.
I considered a drip system, and I may give that a second look. Maybe I will try out both methods this year. We just rent here, so drilling a second well into a deeper aquifer is not an option for me. Water is my biggest worry for this year. Heat itself is not a problem -- it just makes the zinnias grow faster. And use more water.
Incidentally, I hope to be making some significant progress with my tubular petaled project. A few of last year's tubulars are pictured. I am hoping for a lot more variation in them this year.
We have a soaker system laid out, but didn't use it last yr. It uses less water than anything overhead would do. The town will let us hand water in the summer which leads to being mosquito bait. The soaker uses less water & we can be in the house. Check on it once in awhile & not as many bites.
I like pictures # 2 & 3 as there apears a good mass of color per blossom. Not sure what aur iris seeds are doing over the winter. They are outside in their boxes waiting for spring.
Thanks Corey, but I already have some. So far I haven't succeeded with an interspecies cross with them, but they do have very small flowers (red and yellow) and are kind of weedy. In fact, they have self-sowed, and I usually have a few of them as "volunteers".
Well, time flies. Here it is Summer and I am having to water my zinnia patch to keep it from burning up. I have crossed my tubular zinnias with a lot of different zinnias to get modified tubulars. I particularly like this combination of tubular with toothy petaled zinnias. It approximates a new zinnia flower form that I am trying to develop.
It has been sprinkling on and off for the last few days, so I haven't had to water my zinnias during that time.
I noticed that this big zinnia bloom in the first picture has some recurve to its petals. It kind of reminds me of a pagoda.
I like the spidery effect of the zinnia bloom in the second picture. My spider flowered zinnia project has been "on the back burner" while I concentrated on the tubular flowered zinnias, but next year I hope to expand my zinnia growing to include some beds devoted to zinnias with long narrow down-rolled petals.
There is quite a bit of variation in my tubular recombinant zinnias. The first picture on the left has a rather smooth, filled-in bloom, but there is quite a bit of variation in the individual tubular petals.
The second picture shows a tubular with a bloom that is not tightly filled with petals. There is quite a bit of "air" between the petals, but unfortunately there is not much flare-out at the petal ends.
It's still raining here. Looks like we may get a decent amount of moisture out of this.
So, Lucy, I know how it is to be too busy to do as much pollination as you would like. It's a good thing we have those bees to fill in for us. Unfortunately, the bees don't keep could records. (grin)
It has continued to be mostly wet. It's raining as I type this, so I haven't had to water my zinnias in quite some while. I continue to get interesting specimens blooming out, because I have been doing succession plantings. Pictures of a few are attached. The three-armed stigmas are unusual.
I see several small insects going in and out of the tubular petals, and I wonder if any of them are carrying pollen. I have had several mysterious situations in which stigmas concealed in tubular petals got pollinated on a large scale.
I stopped planting any more zinnias at the end of July, because although there is plenty of time to get new blooms here from zinnias planted all through the month of August (zinnias bloom in 5 or 6 weeks from seed), there probably wouldn't be time to set and save a good seed yield from them before a killing frost. But I will continue to have new zinnias blooming out for at least another month. So there may be a few more surprises ahead this year.
Thanks for your response. I wish you were a zinnia breeder or at least a zinnia grower. Apparently I am the only one on Dave's Garden breeding zinnias. At least over on Garden Web there are a few zinnia breeders, although we are relatively small in numbers. But some of the Garden Webbers have gotten some impressive new forms of zinnias, well beyond what I have been able to achieve. I will continue to enjoy my zinnia hobby, and check back in here from time to time.
I have grown zinnias in the past (way past). With the irises & this year, weeds I have not had time for something else. I can't do the indoor trick like you do as irises need the cold before germination. There is an iris hybridizer group on facebook, mainly the tall ones, not the medians. Are there zinnia groups like that?
mentions amateur zinnia breeders, and has an inset on page 81 about "a retired molecular biologist who has turned her scientist's mind to exploring the diversity and beauty of zinnias in her Indiana garden." The "It can be fun to breed your own zinnias" message threads in the Annuals forum of GardenWeb also got a mention in that book. That book has a short 4-page section on zinnia breeding. I am enjoying my zinnia hobby, even if I don't have a lot of co-hobbyists.
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)
W. Atlee Burpee, or maybe it was his son David, had the idea that if they could get a true white marigold, that getting a complete color range in marigolds would then be "relatively easy".
Eventually someone did get the $10,000 prize for a white marigold, although in my opinion it was not a true white. And the extended color range never came. As a kid on the farm, I tried repeatedly to cross marigolds and zinnias because I thought that the extended zinnia color range would be really great in marigolds. I also tried to cross watermelons and cantaloups. Needless to say, those crosses were never successful.
Zinnias have a wide range of whites and "near whites". Perhaps the whitest zinnia cultivar is White Wedding from Burpee. It was developed by Ball, which is now the parent company of Burpee after Burpee faced bankruptcy along about the year 2000, and was bought by Ball.
White Wedding also has a white center. The color of the center of zinnias is governed by some different genes than the petal color, so occasionally I see white or near white zinnias with various dark colors of centers. It's not a bad look.
Zinnias come in every color except blue. Irises come in a complete color range, including several shades of blue. If irises weren't so "slow", I would be breeding them for that reason. But zinnias are more like the "fruit flies" of the flower kingdom, with four generations per year being attainable if you grow two generations inside and two generations outside. I do that. The zinnia seeds germinate in two to six days, and flower in five to six weeks. And then by planting green seeds or excised embryos, you can have a second generation going in a little over two months from the time you started the first generation.
I think if you really "pushed it", you could get six generations of zinnias in a year. And you can grow zinnias from cuttings, and I don't recall anyone propagating iris in that way. Someone should probably experiment with that. Also, tissue culture of iris might open up some possibilities.
I expect that zinnias will eventually get blues via genetic engineering, and then they will have a color range comparable to iris and orchids and such. But I don't expect that to occur for several years. I expect that genetic engineering will eventually make it possible to cross zinnias with marigolds. Or even cross zinnias with irises. It will be "a brave new world".
The true spectrum red is not in bearded irises, although the LA irises are supposed to have it.
I don't know about cutting. Of course they don't come true from seeds. I am having enough trouble trying to get the falls of my amoena SDBs trying to expand the 'red' color to the edge ot the petals of the falls. I work with the standard dwarfs & other medians not the tall irises.
Even Burpee admitted that the prize winning white had a yellow center.
Have you considered the technique of embryo extraction as a potential method of speeding up your iris seed germination? Zinnias don't require a cold treatment for germination, but embryo extraction does make them germinate essentially instantly from an immature seed. I am attaching a couple of pics documenting the technique for zinnias.
I think it would be essentially the same for iris seeds. You could try the technique on immature seeds, and save all that waiting time waiting for a seed pod to mature. And possible bypass the cold treatment time as well. You might be able to get iris seedlings the same year as you make the cross pollination.
I am "no Spring chicken" myself, but I credit my enthusiasm about my zinnia hobby for keeping me physically and mentally active, engaged with life, not bored, and optimistic that good things will happen. Regardless of what it is, a hobby that you are passionate about can be very beneficial, regardless of your age.
Every year I find crazy new zinnias. I bought wildflower mix and it comes with red, pink, and fushia colored zinnias. Each year some seeds sprout on their own from the previous year. I've seen variegated zinnias, one zinnia was orange and pink like sorbet, another was pure white, some were tiny and others had few giant blooms.
My advice is plant different varieties close let them naturally pollinate and sow seeds in the ground and grow on their own, you'll get new varieties without any work.
You are right that you can find new zinnia varieties using the technique you describe, which involves very little work. And you can actually make a lot of progress by simply saving seeds from your favorite zinnias every year. But, if you are so inclined, you can go deeper into the hobby, if your curiosity about zinnias leads you there.
Over in the Annuals forum, in the "Annuals: zinnia problem" message thread, I told Brenda about the green seed technique for saving zinnia seeds as a means of minimizing the risk of water damage and bird damage to the seeds in the zinnia flower heads. I mentioned that another implication of the green seed technique is that it opens up the possibility of starting a second generation of zinnias while the first generation is still growing. I told Brenda that I would go into that in more detail in a subsequent message. I think I will do that here in this Hybridizer's forum, and refer Brenda over here, because it has applicability here and the Hybridizer's forum is one of Dave's Garden's forums that is open to outsiders without requiring them to become members of Dave's Garden. It would be good if we could widen our circle of people interested in growing zinnias.
I originally experimented with planting green zinnia seeds as a means of getting a quick second generation of zinnias. It was another zinnia breeder (Jackie R over in GardenWeb) who informed me that I could dry my green seeds for storage and later use, because she had been doing that for quite some time. I started doing that myself, because saving green zinnia seeds has several advantages.
When you are trying to get a quick second generation of zinnias, you are in a hurry to get the green seeds to germinate. Drying them takes time and if you plant them immediately after pulling them from a zinnia flower head, they don't germinate immediately because the green seed coat is alive and impermeable to water. When a green seed is planted, the seed coat has to die and become permeable to water before the green seed germinates. That can take two or three weeks, which significantly delays getting that second generation of zinnias. But if you breach the seed coat in some way, water can get immediate access to the embryo and cause prompt germination in two to four days. Several ways of doing that are shown in the accompanying picture.
Notice the "nearly naked" embryo in that picture. At first that was sort of an accident, but I discovered that while you are opening the seed coat, it isn't hard to go on and extract the embryo altogether. That was how the technique of growing zinnias from embryos instead of seeds evolved. That technique was illustrated in a message above.
I have a bunch of zinnias growing right now beside my computer that were started from green seeds and embryos that were harvested from selected specimens before our killing frost. That third generation of zinnias this year is budding out, with the potential of starting a fourth generation of zinnias before Christmas.
Because you extract green seeds from a growing zinnia flower head, the green seed technique lets you get a second generation of zinnias growing and developing while the parent mother zinnia plant is still growing and developing. That's a little bit reminiscent of a mother hen with her baby chicks.
Zen, you have a picture of a Zinnia that I'm particularly fond of. I'm talking about the recurved or pagoda style...I think it's magenta with long petals (left of the spider). Have you saved seeds from this? If you have will you trade for something on my have list?
" Have you saved seeds from this? If you have will you trade for something on my have list? "
I saved a limited amount of seed from the specimen you indicated, but I will be using all of them next year in an attempt to improve the strain.
My breeder specimens of zinnias are fairly heterogeneous, meaning that they have a variety of different grandparents and great grandparents. The picture on the left is another bloom on the "pagoda" zinnia you indicated. It was packed with numerous cactus-style petals, much more so than ordinary.
To show how much difference there can be between one generation of zinnias and the next, the picture on the right was the mother of that "pagoda" zinnia. I referred to the mother as my "Pink Shaggy Dog", and considered it to be an important breeder zinnia because it had such long hanging-down petals. If those petals had been pointing more or less straight out, as the petals do on a lot of zinnias, that zinnia could have been more than 8 inches across. So I consider the genes coming from the Pink Shaggy Dog to be potentially useful for one of my goals, namely a new strain of zinnias with huge blooms. That's not my only goal, but it is one of them.
I anticipate that for at least the next year or two I will not be sharing, trading, or selling seeds from any of my breeder zinnias. I will be growing all of them myself in my quest for strains of novel new zinnia varieties. My basic breeding methods are rather simple: make a lot of crosses, grow a lot of zinnias, watch for mutations, and use only the best of those to produce seeds for the next generation.
I started back in 2005, by planting a few Whirligigs, Burpee Burpeeana Giants, Burpee Giant Hybrids (now apparently a discontinued strain) and some Scabiosa Flowered zinnias. I made quite a few crosses, and in 2006 I got an excitingly different "sunflower flowered" zinnia (picture attached) from a cross between a Scabiosa Flowered zinnia and probably one of the Whirligig specimens.
I had never seen any zinnia like it, and that one zinnia was enough to get me hooked, although I had some other interesting results from crosses between Scabiosa Flowered zinnias and the large cactus flowered zinnias.
So really it took me only a year to get some unique zinnias that you couldn't get from a seed packet. My zinnia patch gets more interesting to me as each year goes by. It's an absorbing hobby, and easy to get into.
"Have you seen one like that on the market? I rather like 'sister' pagoda too."
I haven't seen one like it advertised or on the picture of a cactus strain seed packet or catalog entry, but I think that if you grow a lot of cactus flowered zinnias, you will probably find one or more like it, or very similar to it. You might find one even better. Over at GardenWeb, a zinnia breeder, Jackie R, showed a picture of one very much like it and possibly better. They aren't extremely common, but they aren't super rare either. Because bees do so much accidental hybridization, field-grown zinnias can show a lot of variation that doesn't get into the catalog pictures or seed packet pictures.
And you can induce more variation by crossing cactus type zinnias with other types, like Whirligigs. Whirligigs can be a "secret sauce" when you cross them with cactus-type zinnias. The F1 hybrids may not be so remarkable, but further recombinations in F2, F3, and beyond generations can bring out characteristics that were not obvious in either the original cactus zinnias or the original Whirligig zinnias. And the scabiosa flowered zinnias are full of variations and breeding potential. That "pagoda" cactus may actually have some scabiosa "blood" in it, like in the attached picture of a scabiosa hybrid.
Am I understanding that you will not pay that much attention to the beauties you create because you're focused on other breeding goals. I'd like to buy all three of those Zinnias...I think you should register them. To my mind, they are unique and very pleasing, why not register them?
"Am I understanding that you will not pay that much attention to the beauties you create because you're focused on other breeding goals."
I am not totally ignoring any of my zinnias that I consider to be of "breeder quality". It is true that I neglected to pollinate the Pagoda specimen a lot this year, because I was much more focused on making cross pollinations between my new star-petaled mutant and some of my tubular petaled specimens in an attempt to get new and improved variations of that new petal form.
The flower form of the Pagoda zinnia is not as rare as the star petaled form, so the star petaled form got much more of my time this year. However, I share your admiration for the Pagoda flower form, and I will continue to develop that unusual cactus flowerform as well. I plan to grow a lot of my cross-pollinated cactus flowered zinnias next year, looking for further improvement in size and flower form. But I will also be growing a lot of the progeny from the star petaled mutant, looking for further improvements to the tubular petal structure and the flower forms that have it. And I have several other ongoing zinnia projects.
"I'd like to buy all three of those Zinnias..."
I took up this zinnia hobby purely for my personal enjoyment, with no intention of ever selling anything. And although my successes have been much more than I originally anticipated, I still don't anticipate selling or distributing my zinnia seeds. After some of my new zinnia strains become stable, I will want them to become available, and I might entertain selling them to a seed company who would have the facilities to grow them in commercial quantities and make them available to the general public. But that is years in the future, and for the time being I plan to continue this zinnia hobby purely for the fun of it. I do consider your offer to buy all three of them as the ultimate compliment, and I thank you for that compliment.
"...I think you should register them. To my mind, they are unique and very pleasing, why not register them?"
I agree with you that they are unique and pleasing, but I don't know of any Registry for Zinnias. Zinnias aren't like daylilies or irises or dahlias or roses, in that zinnias are primarily grown from seeds, and not from rhizomes or bulbs or tubers or grafted rootstock or such. It is true that zinnias can be grown asexually from cuttings or tissue cultures, but that is not done commercially. At least, not currently. So, at this time, registering zinnias is probably not an option.
I am attaching pictures of my star petaled mutant. It got a lot of my attention this year. It has obvious flaws, such as the brown tips on the points on the stars, but it is a different new petal structure for zinnias. I want to explore the possibilities of recombining its genetics with some of my other zinnias, including those with tubular type petals. I continue to look for new flower forms in zinnias.
Time to think outside-the-box. With your breeding talent with the zinnia, can you tell me what mix caused this rudbeckia to throw white in its blossoms. This was a strain that I have grown for years (volunteers) and there was only once this happened. I have never seen one like this elsewhere and it has not happened since. At the time I could have saved the seed, I'm sorry to say I did not. Just curious???
I am no expert on Rudbeckia, but that Rudbeckia looks like Rudbeckia hirta, common name, Black Eyed Suzan. A think that a breeder of Black Eyed Suzans would have been excited to get some seeds from that mutant.
It's hard to say what might have caused that mutation. Some strange chemicals can cause mutations, and Cosmic Rays have even been credited with causing mutations. Occasionally a mishap occurs during sexual cell division.
Whatever the cause, mutations are relatively rare on our time scale. That is why it is so exciting when a mutation happens in our garden. I have never seen a Black Eyed Suzan like your mutant. Rudbeckia hirta "Prairie Sun"
has whitish petal ends and a greenish white center, which is completely different from your mutant. I think your mutant probably was unique.
I hope that you will take up amateur zinnia breeding, and be on the lookout for any mutant zinnias. As Forrest Gump quoted his mother in the movie, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get." Zinnias are kind of like that, too.
ZM, thanks so much for sharing your valuable info. I collected a bunch of Zinnia seeds (a mix) from a gardener friend's garden and will start on my 'Make 'em Look Like ZM's Project' late winter. I'll be thinking of your three little beauties the WHOLE time.
That orange bloom with a pink center is quite significant. That contrast in color is a bit unusual, and worthy of consideration when evaluating a zinnia. The center of a zinnia is kind of a forgotten flower part, and it is an important part that we breeders of our zinnias should take notice of when we are picking which zinnias to use as breeders.
The first picture shows that the center can have a striking contrast in the composition of a zinnia bloom, especially when there are unusual bicolor petals. The second picture shows that a large sized center can be significant. The third picture shows that a hidden center can cause a whole new look in a zinnia bloom. The fourth picture shows that a white center looks "right" in a white zinnia (and is attractive to a nine-spotted cucumber beetle). The fifth picture shows that when the color of the center matches the base color of bicolored petals, the effect unifies the whole central region of the bloom.
I could go on with this theme of the various roles of the center in a zinnia bloom, but I think that zinnia DNA has many hidden surprises that we haven't seen yet, regarding what zinnia centers can do. It is good that you called attention to zinnia centers.
Your message came in while I was composing that last response to Brenda.
"I collected a bunch of Zinnia seeds (a mix) from a gardener friend's garden and will start on my 'Make 'em Look Like ZM's Project' late winter."
You must have a much warmer climate than we have here in east central Kansas. I am growing a limited number of zinnias indoors this Winter, but I definitely couldn't start anything outside until next Spring.
I don't know how varied your gardener friend's zinnias were, but I would suggest a minor purchase of a few additional seeds to add some variety to your genetic mix. Several seed companies offer Whirligig zinnias, but Stokes has reasonable prices, especially if you get more quantity than a single packet.
Whirligigs have much more diversity than any seed packet picture or catalog picture might suggest. Whirligigs differ from most zinnias, in that they were derived from an interspecific cross between Z. elegans (violacea) and Z. haageana. Those hybrids had the potential of being fertile, because both species had the same chromosome number (24). The progeny from those hybrids (F2 and beyond) are capable of recombining genetics from both species in many different ways. And Whirligigs are the progeny of those hybrids. I have found that crossing Whirligigs with my favorite large zinnias and scabiosa flowered zinnias has yielded a whole spectrum of new variation. In short, Whirligigs are the "secret sauce" in my zinnia breeding program.
If I were to recommend just two additional strains, they would be the scabiosa flowered zinnias and Burpee's Burpeeana Giants. And there are many other interesting strains of zinnias that give you a mind-boggling astronomical number of possible crosses that you could make. And don't forget, you can make crosses between your own hybrids. That's fair, and fun.
"I'll be thinking of your three little beauties the WHOLE time."
Don't limit yourself to just those three. With zinnias, the possibilities are almost endless. Breeding zinnias is a little like pulling the handle on a slot machine. The more times you pull the handle, the better your chances are of hitting a jackpot. And there is no reason you couldn't hit a bigger jackpot than I might hit. Lady Luck rules this game.
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)
I was just touting Whirligigs to Robin. Interestingly, photo #5 is of a Whirligig grown from a seed straight out of a Whirligig seed packet from Stokes. No interference from me on that one. I grew a whole bed of Whirligigs and each new bloom was a surprise. I will be growing another bed of Stokes' Whirligigs next year. I'm always looking for "new blood" for my "gene pool".
I love #5. I am going to order some seeds. I just throw them on the ground this time of yer and in lat April, early May thy start coming up all over.
Having lived in Las Vegas since 1960, I have heard of Lady Luck. I do not gamble. Never did. Just was not my thing.
It has taken me many years to finally become a decent gardener. You can tell ZM has not been to Las Vegas for a long time because slot machines no longer have handles. LOL.
We are still in the high 60s but will go down in temperatures quickly when our windy season moves in. Roses are still blooming but leaves look bad. I usually throw seed from the first blooms of the zinnias and they come up in our heat in about 4 days during the summer. But I have beautiful soil because of composting for the past 12 years when we moved into the property.
Zen, thanks for sharing your knowledge. I really appreciate it and you. Sharon
And I also appreciate your comments and you. Yes, it has been a few decades since I was in Vegas. When I was much younger I had several occasions to make business trips to Las Vegas to help install some software at Nellis Air Force Base. Slot machines were everywhere. As I walked down the ramp from the airplane, carrying my carry-on bag and heading to the luggage pickup area, there was a slot machine right at the end of the ramp.
I had a couple of quarters in my pocket, so I fed them to the machine. The second quarter hit a jackpot, and suddenly I had a pocket full of quarters, and I was kind of "hooked". I mentally budgeted $20 as the amount I would lose in Vegas on a trip, and I stuck to that.
It actually took me several hours in a casino to lose that. I followed the same plan on subsequent trips to Nellis. Lose $20, and quit, and treat it as cheap entertainment money. (Actually, $20 was worth a lot more back in those days).
On my last trip, I hit a "run" of jackpots and found myself $135 ahead, so I vowed to quit while I was ahead, and I did.
Until many years later, while attending a wedding in Las Vegas, I remembered that $135 and decided to "go for it". Needless to say, I eventually lost the whole $135 and quit.
So the saying that "the house always wins" eventually came true for me, after many years. Except I quit at a point where I was even, and had the consolation of being "ahead of the game" for over two decades. They say that for many people, gambling is an addiction, and I believe that. In the casino there were people who had been pulling those slot machine levers for hours, and you could tell that many of them were no strangers to it, because their right arms were noticeably bigger than their left arms, like you see on some people who bowl a lot. I guess the new slot machines have solved that problem.
Your Whirligig zinnias will appreciate your composty soil. I still have a long way to go in that area. Although I did till in a couple of old compost piles into my zinnia garden yesterday and the day before. There were some live earthworms in that compost. I don't know if earthworms love me -- they probably don't, because I have undoubtedly cut a few of them in two with my tiller. But I definitely like earthworms. I am attaching a few pictures of some of my Whirligig specimens from past years. Whirligigs have a variety of petal forms.
"I cannot imagine a 1/4 pound of zinnia seed. Yes, quite the bargain."
I actually purchased a quarter pound package of Whirligigs from Stokes a few years ago. I will be planting the last of those this Spring. One advantage to having a huge excess of seeds is that you can pour some of them out on a sheet of white paper and go through them, picking out your "favorite" individual seeds.
I have noticed that there is some correlation between petal seed shape and the shape of the petal. Long thin seeds tend to produce zinnias with long thin petals. Broad seeds produce broad petals. If you are going for bigger flowers, pick out the biggest seeds. You probably don't need the 1/4-pound package right now, or maybe for years, but there are advantages to getting the big package anyway. Namely, you can get "pick of the litter" by selecting out the individual seeds that appeal to you. There is a lot of difference between the individual seeds, and a big package of seeds lets you take advantage of those differences.
"Your # 3 (center) must be what you refer to as your scabocia zinnia? "
It was produced by crossing a scabiosa flowered zinnia with a "regular" larger zinnia. And perhaps crossing two of those scabiosa hybrids together. There was a lot of scabiosa crossing involved. The big attraction of scabiosa flowered zinnias to me is that the scabious flower form doesn't have those "fuzzy yellow starfish" pollen florets. Instead, their florets have the petal color and can build up an attractive petal-colored center. If Whirligig ancestry is involved, the scabious florets can have a contrasting color to the petal color, but still not be "fuzzy yellow". One current source of scabious zinnias is the Scabious Flowered Mixed strain from Thompson & Morgan:
I should add one qualifier about the scabious zinnia strains currently in the marketplace. Namely, they don't produce a high percentage of the scabious flower forms, and there will be a lot of non-scabious specimens that you will probably want to cull and discard. As a zinnia breeder, I am happy if I get one good zinnia in 20, but a lot of gardeners would be appalled to find so many off-type specimens. Just be mentally prepared that your commercial scabious zinnias will contain a lot of culls. But, to me, the few "good ones" make up for it. Not all people would be as forgiving as me.
I am attaching a few pictures of my zinnias that were derived from scabious crosses. There were many more than are shown in this 5-picture gallery.
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)
OK, I got it. I will order the seed, lay them out on a white sheet of paper, take a photo and you can tell me what I have. LOL. Or, I could separate the seeds, and identify what I planted where, so I would know what seed is what.
'ZM, you do realize I am 71 and do not have forever for this exercise. LOL.
ZM, I cannot believe you tilled your worms.
We had a steady rain here all day. So thankful for the moisture. Suppose to rain again tomorrow and then we will be sunny but 15 degrees lower in temperatures.
So looking forward to warm weather in April. Just around the corner. Have a great evening and a wonderful day tomorrow. You all stay safe. Mother Winter
"...you do realize I am 71 and do not have forever for this exercise. LOL"
I am also a senior citizen. But, as they say, age is not important, it's how young you feel. And my zinnia hobby keeps me feeling young. There is always something to look forward to. And even if you don't grow zinnias indoors during the Winter months like I do, there is always planning to do and seeds to mess with and reading about zinnias to do. I'll touch on those things in a subsequent message.
" I will order the seed, lay them out on a white sheet of paper, take a photo and you can tell me what I have. "
That sounds like a plan. Let's do it.
" I cannot believe you tilled your worms. "
It's not as bad as you think. I piled the aged compost several inches deep on some garden soil that needed both improving and elevating to smooth out and make more level a slope. So I needed to mix the compost into the soil underneath. There were earthworms in the compost, and a few earthworms in the existing garden soil. I could have used a spading fork (I have two of them) to dig the compost in, but I am a senior citizen and we had inclement weather pending the next day, so I needed to use the tiller to get the job done fast. My tiller gets soil blending done with less effort and much faster than using the spading fork.
My tiller is a mid-tined Merry Tiller that has a triple reduction enclosed chain drive transmission for extremely high tine torque and very slow tine speed. So there is no need for a dirt shield and I have full view of the tilling zone and a delicate clutch control over the tines. If I dig up a toad, lizard, or tiny snake, I can instantly let off on the clutch to stop the tines, so I can rescue the animal unharmed. Or, if I dig up some old artifact like a belt buckle, a tiny toy, a nail or spike, or a piece of glass or pottery, I can stop the tines instantly and retrieve that. I always remove any foreign object that might be harmful to a person.
Rear tined tillers have a high tine speed of 200 RPM and higher, while my mid-tined Merry Tiller has a low tine speed that can be as low as 30 RPM. While a rear-tined tiller can act like a high speed blender set on "puree", my tiller does a gentle blending like a hand mixer. The rear tined tillers make mince meat out of earth worms, but my tiller might just cut an earth worm in two to become two earth worms.
"We had a steady rain here all day."
We had a light freezing rain last night. It got down to 18 last night, it was 22 this morning, and our high today is predicted to be 32. Our deck is covered with glaze ice right now. I'm glad I got that tilling done when I did. Today is an inside gardening day for me. I have zinnias growing on the shelves right by my computer, and they do need my attention.
We have had rain for more than 24 hours. Very unusual for Las Vegas. The valley is surrounded by mountains and the mountains are all getting snow. Our high today was 50. Rain is moving out tomorrow and we will be back in the 60s.
I have plumeria, tropical hibiscus and Philippine Violet and Delonix plants in the garage garden area and coleus and geranium cuttings in small three shelved greenhouses. I am a zone pusher. Good thing I have a three car garage.
You are so right about age. I can outwork most 50 year old individuals. My father's training. "You quit when you are done, not when you are tired". I can still hear his voice. I was the oldest of 4 children. But I did learn a great work ethic. And I relax by moving, not sitting.
Looking forward to hearing how you grow zinnias in the house.
RickCorey_WA wrote:Can Zinnias be propagated by stem cuttings?
Yes, with several provisos. You need to use something like Physan 20 to prevent bacterial rot of the soft tissue. You need to use a good rooting hormone. You need to provide a humidity dome and adequate lighting. You need to have a good rooting medium that provides adequate aeration. You may need to provide bottom heat. It takes about 10 or 12 days for the cutting to strike enough roots to allow you to remove the humidity dome.
In previous years I took numerous cuttings in the Fall as a "lifeboat" for breeder zinnias that were threatened by a killing frost. This year I took green seeds instead, to start a new generation indoors rather than prolong the current generation indoors. That new indoor generation is coming into bloom now.
In the past, as an experiment, I have taken cuttings from zinnia plants that were themselves started from cuttings. Those second generation cuttings produced plants that could have had third generation cuttings taken from them, although I did not choose to do that. Actually, I wonder if a zinnia plant is potentially immortal if you continue to take cuttings from cuttings repeatedly.
A problem is that the average zinnia plant doesn't have enough nodes to provide the material for very many cuttings. In my Fall "lifeboat" operations, I sacrificed the entire plant for cutting material, but even then didn't get very many cuttings from a plant. I don't think that cuttings are a practical method for the commercial multiplication of a zinnia strain, because the multiplication factor isn't very high. I think that you would need to use Tissue Culture for a high multiplication factor.
All is well. Company dropped in for the weekend. It has been bitter cold here for the last two days. I will go into detail about growing zinnias indoors and post a few pictures. I actually have a few indoor zinnias starting to bloom out now, and I need to repot a lot of them. And do some cross pollination as well.
OK, I have a software update download going, so I have some time to talk about growing zinnias indoors. It isn't particularly hard to start some zinnias indoors a few weeks early to set them out in your garden after it safe to do so in the Spring. Although that usually does require fluorescent lights, pots, growing medium, and possibly some soluble nutrients, it isn't nearly as hard as actually growing the zinnias indoors from seed to flower to seed to complete the cycle.
As far as I know, no book discusses growing zinnias as a house plant. And there is good reason for that. Houseplants usually have minimal light requirements, are relatively slow growing, and have modest requirements for water, nutrition, and care in general. Zinnias are not like that at all, in that they require a lot of light, grow rapidly, and use a lot of water and nutrients.
If you take the time, effort, and expenditure of money, you can grow zinnias indoors successfully. It can even be gratifying to meet and overcome the challenges of growing zinnias indoors, just as people who grow orchids indoors enjoy doing that, despite the challenges. Zinnias are probably at least as difficult to grow indoors as orchids. My zinnias are my orchids.
I am not an organic gardener, although I use some of their methods, particularly soil improvement by composting. It's hard to get too much organic matter in garden soil. But I have no compunction against using "chemicals" along as they are handled safely. I don't understand some of the organic gardening dogmas. Organic gardeners seem to approve of using Epsom Salts to provide some much needed magnesium (a component of chlorophyll). Epsom Salts, which is Magnesium sulfate, is somehow organic, although Potassium sulfate fertilizer is somehow a dreaded chemical. That seems inconsistent to me, particularly since both substances could come from the same chemical plant. But that is irrelevant to the discussion here, except to explain that how an organic gardener could grow zinnias indoors is beyond my expertise. It might be possible, but I have no information on that.
If you are breeding zinnias, growing them indoors has some good advantages. It lets you make progress much faster, because you get more generations per year. And it turns out that cross pollinating zinnias indoors is particularly easy and effective. You no longer need to worry about the bees stealing your pollen or applying unwanted pollen. Since your indoor zinnias are portable, you can move the pollen donor zinnias next to the female zinnias for your own convenience.
Adequate light for the zinnias is a requirement. You might succeed in starting a few seedlings early on a sunny window sill, but that won't work for actually growing zinnias indoors. That doesn't provide enough light. Even if the window sill were very sunny or there is a sun room or greenhouse available, there simply aren't enough hours of sunlight in the Winter to meet the "full sun" requirements of zinnias.
So you have to supply some light. I use T8 4-foot fluorescent lights in inexpensive shoplight fixtures. I got most of mine from Home Depot, and paid about $8 per 2-bulb fixture. I think that prices have since gone up significantly, because inflation continues. I think that inexpensive shoplights are still cost effective. I put the shoplights as close together as I can, and get four shoplights over each 2 foot by 4 foot shelf. That gives 8 fluorescent tubes per shelf. I have overdriven some of my shoplights for more light output. I try to adjust the hanging chains to keep the bulbs about 3 inches above the zinnia plants. Occasionally I forget and a rapidly growing zinnias gets a little "scorched" by contacting a bulb. The shoplights are on a timer, set to turn the lights on and off for a day length of 16 to 17 hours. The shoplights and T8 bulbs are one of the necessary expenses, but I use the economy priced cool white T8 bulbs. They cost less in boxes of 10 bulbs. I don't think the special plant spectrum bulbs are worth the extra cost. I try to keep my bulb cost to about $3 per 4-foot T8 bulb.
You also need pots, growing medium, and trays for the pots. I use Premier Pro-Mix BX as my "sterile" growing medium. I don't use soil indoors, because that can cause problems. The Pro-Mix contains a very limited amount of nutrients, just adequate for two or three weeks of seedling growth. Because the sterile growing medium doesn't contain the soil bacteria necessary to break urea down into available nitrate and ammonium ions, I use urea-free nutrient formulas, like Better-Gro's soluble nutrients for orchids.
Because you aren't growing in soil indoors, you probably have to add soluble calcium in your nutrients. It might be helpful to get an analysis sheet for your water supply. Most municipal water departments will supply you an analysis sheet on request. Your water might contain usable amounts of calcium, magnesium, and other elements, and then again, it might not. When you are using soil-less growing, you are in effect growing your plants hydroponically, even if you are using a growing mix as a support medium in lieu of the gravel, sand, rock wool, or just plain water that are used in hydroponic gardening. Plants need a lot of calcium, so hydroponic growers almost always add soluble calcium to their water. I purchased some calcium nitrate and I add some of that to the water that I supply to my zinnias.
I will touch on problems with pests, such as aphids, fungus gnats, thrips, and the dreaded spider mites in subsequent messages. You may not have them, but you could, and you have to be prepared, and possibly take preventative steps. One year I lost my entire indoor zinnia garden to thrips, and my very first indoor zinnia garden involved an ongoing war with aphids that I had inadvertently brought indoors from the garden on zinnias that were transplanted from the garden to pots. I used a small vacuum cleaner intended for computer keyboards to suck many of the aphids off of my zinnia plants. Pests that are normally kept in check by natural enemies outdoors can have catastrophic population explosions indoors.
This year, even before a killing frost, starting the 12th of October, I began bringing green seeds indoors and planted them to start a new generation of zinnias, rather than prolong the current generation via indoor cuttings. I took a few pictures yesterday. The first picture shows a zinnia plant in the process of being re-potted. The second picture shows some of my indoor zinnias that are budding. I have a lot of re-potting pending, and it's time to start some cross-pollinating as well.
I have grown a few crosses between mutants and gotten some different results indoors. I saved seeds from a selected few and will plant them outdoors when the weather allows in a few weeks. Instead of ordinary petals, they have small tubular petal-flowers. One of my hybridizing goals is new zinnia flower forms that you couldn't get from any commercial seed packet. These indoor specimens, and others not pictured here, meet that goal.
Apologies for the delay in responding. You have some nice zinnias. Are those ribbons that you are using to mark your blooms? That last one is a bit of a mystery. Something could have bitten it when it was young, or maybe it did just grow that way.
That second one has some interestingly curled petals. A few are curled in a way that I haven't seen before. I would save seeds from that one to see it its progeny have some interesting petals. The first and third and the yellow one up above would make good females for cross pollinating, because they aren't "throwing pollen". And they have nice full blooms.
Hi ZM - Interesting I was looking at some old seed packet fronts last night and there was one they called a scabiosia zinnia, which reminds me of your #1 & #5 above, with the little puff in the center. Those are VERY pretty. That color on your #5 is like purple ice - Beautiful. Your #3 looks like a starburst. The #4 I can almost see the parent.
I mark my zinnias with Velcro tape, like in the first picture. I use the 1/2-inch wide tape to label individual blooms on a bush, telling what that bloom was pollinated width. For the basic plant labels, I prefer the tape to be a bit wider. For that I use 2-inch tree holding tape, and split it three ways to get 2/3-inch tape. I write on the Velcro tape with Sharpie markers. I use the Ultra Fine Point Sharpies to write on the 1/2-inch tape and the Fine Point Sharpies to write more boldly on the 2/3-inch labels. The light green color and texture of the Velcro tape blends nicely with the green color of zinnia leaves.
You are right, the first and fifth breeders above have at least one Scabiosa Flowered grandparent. Sometimes the scabiosa flowered zinnias occupy several spots on their "family tree". Scabiosa flowered zinnias are what got me started with zinnia breeding. I crossed a scabiosa flowered zinnia with a large flowered Burpeeana Giant zinnia, and got an amazing large hybrid that had a very full scabious center. It was like no commercially available zinnia, and it showed me how easy it is to get zinnias that are beyond what is commercially available.
I probably should buy some more commercial scabiosa flowered zinnia seed to grow next year, just to add to my gene pool. But I have had several distinctly different results from cross-pollinating with scabi pollen.
Well, I like #2 and #5. I was going to try this but have become a care giver for my husband so that is not in the cards right now. You all seem to doing a great job and having fun. And that is what life is all about.
ZM - Love the deep burgundy centers in #2 photo and #5 on your most recent post. And, Also the rushy colored edgings of the petals of photo #2. I think you have your labeling down to a fine science. Prior to seeing the photos of old seed packets, I did not realize there was a scabiosia zinnia on the market. Do you recall who sells the scabiosia zinnia seed? The color of the #3 & #4 zinnia are unique.
I like to purchase from more than one source, because the zinnia seeds from one field differ from those of "the same variety" from another field. It's sort of like getting a second and third opinion on something.
I am including a few more pictures of my zinnias that showed scabious influence. The scabious genes can do some interesting things when mixed with other zinnia varieties.
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)
I think of the zinnia in #2 as Marigold flowered, because it looks rather like some marigolds do. I know that #1 is rather weird, but I actually like it. It reminds me of a Water Lily, and I will actually be trying to develop a strain based on that unusual flower form, as the opportunity presents itself.
A lot of my zinnias have some cactus flowered "blood" in them, including #5. It represents a project to get much larger central florets in the scabious-like flower form. I would like for each floret to be a flower unto itself. My enthusiasm for my Razzle Dazzle and Exotic strains is based on the same goal -- to get the individual flower parts of zinnias to look more like individual flowers. Botanically, any plant part capable of producing a seed is a "flower", and that includes individual zinnia petals, as well as the pollen-bearing florets. The florets in #5 are considerably larger than normal. Pics of a few more scabious-based breeders.
You have my fullest sympathies in your role as a caregiver for your husband.
This year I am giving priority to developing the mutant offspring by crossing them with larger better zinnias to increase their size and color range. A few current pictures of some zinnias that you won't find in any of your seed catalogs.
ZM - Thanks for the info about scabiosa flowered zinnia.
I've been out among the zinnia this eve - only thing, the eve just was not long enough before it became dark. I so enjoy meandering among the zinnia and checking out what new surprises are in store and working trying to make new surprises for next year. Here are some of the zinnia I marked this eve. For sure I want to save their seeds.
I am tentatively expecting my outdoor zinnia project to be ended by frost sometime in October, possibly about mid-October. I am still doing some cross pollinations in case the growing season should run a little long into the last of October. I am saving seeds as they become available. Pictures of some of my current "breeder" zinnias are attached.
ZM - Your number 2 is a beaut!! Also really like the cool (almost blue) color or #4.
Yes - I expect my outdoor zinnia gardening will probably end between October 15 and the 20th. Hoping for closer to the 20th. My last area of zinnias, planted July 10th, are sure at their peak right now. They never cease to amaze me in all their glory. Such fun!
My number 2 is showing strong Whirligig heritage, with the white tips on red petals. I estimate that over half of my zinnias have some Whirligig "blood" in them. I strongly recommend the Stokes Seeds strain of Whirligigs, because it has a decent fraction of double and semi-double flowers, in a variety of forms that don't appear on the catalog pictures. And Stokes Seeds also offers economical bulk and semi-bulk prices. These zinnias all have Whirligig influence.
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)
ZM - #5 Is STUNNING STUNNING STUNNING, and what I like most about it the burgundy/pink edging around each petal. I have not noticed that in any of your prior picture posts. Of course the purples are grand and I see the Whirligig "blood" in most of the ones above.
I had marked and saved so many seeds last fall that I did not need to order more, but I did keep in mind the Stokes Seeds for the Whirligig as I find that variety very special.
ZM - #5 Is STUNNING STUNNING STUNNING, and what I like most about it the burgundy/pink edging around each petal. I have not noticed that in any of your prior picture posts. Of course the purples are grand and I see the Whirligig "blood" in most of the ones above.
I had marked and saved so many seeds last fall that I did not need to order more, but I did keep in mind the Stokes Seeds for the Whirligig as I find that variety very special.
My picture post is definitely not a Whirligig, but it is a little off the beaten path.
Keep zinnia-ian - as it is a countdown of days until frost.
Yes, #5 was a very special zinnia. I don't remember now whether it was directly from a Whirligig packet, or was the result of a cross between Whirligigs and cactus flowered zinnias. I particularly liked its daisy-like flower form, as well as the unusual petal coloration. I plan to devote my entire South garden to Whirligigs next year. That should finish off that quarter pound of Whirligig seed I bought from Stokes Seeds a few years ago. Interestingly, Stokes got those seeds from a grower in Tanzania.
Your "off the beaten path" zinnia is unique. I like that flower form, but unlike the commercial dahlia flowered zinnias, it really looks like a dahlia. You should definitely save as many seeds from that specimen as you can.
The attached pictures were of scabiosa-based zinnias that had extra full flower forms. One of my on-going objectives is to find a scabiosa flowered zinnia that actually does not have any guard petals at all. Just the full center. Someone here on this forum reported having had one a few years ago, so I know that such a zinnia can exist. I'll be on the lookout for one this Winter and next Spring, and when I find it, I will make a lot of crosses involving it.
ZM - Your #2 & #5, from what I can see, do not have much, in the way of guard petals - especially # 5. Maybe your objective is closer than you think. I have some zinnia blooms very close to your center photo. I still like the burgundy center as in your # 1 scabiosa above. Your #4 looks skirted.
Thanks for the feedback on my "off the beaten path", it must be unique to get a comment like that from you.
Last eve when I was in my Wetland Garden, where my best zinnia are at present, I noticed a zinnia the color of butterscotch. It was late and about to get dark and the flash taking the picture did not do it justice. The only thing special about it was the color. Maybe I can get a better picture in a day or so.
I look forward to another picture of your "off the beaten path" zinnia. It has a unique flower form. At first glance my last picture does "look like" it has no guard petals, but a closer look reveals them "hiding under" the crested florets. Its short wide guard petals are as good as I can get at the present time, because they are nearly hidden. But I will remain on the lookout for scabious zinnia blooms with no guard petals to hide.
I am a little curious why your zinnias seem to do so well in your Wetland Garden. Here in my rural location in Kansas, my gardens are on cultivated prairie land, which even with my soil amendments, will never approach the moist conditions of a wetland. Back during the drought in 2012, this area was taking on some of the properties of a desert. I was surprised that my zinnias did as well as they did, considering that many of the native plants died in the heat.
I am in the October endgame in my zinnia patch. Mainly concerned with saving seeds now. I don't see much point in making any more cross pollinations now, because a killing frost is likely before any newly pollinated seeds could mature. I am starting to think about my indoor zinnia project now. And continuing my outdoor Fall cleanup.
ZM - I call this garden a "Wetland Garden" because it is in the same field that our wetland was constructed in and there is no way to plant the garden prior to Memorial Day, unless I want to easily loose it to flooding. This year the area was too wet to plant until July 10th, which is the latest I have ever planted it. All of my Wetland Garden was planted July 10th this year. Many of the flowers in the Wetland Garden are volunteers.
In pix #1 (taken while ago) you can see the small wetland in the distance and the Wetland Garden is the colorful area closest to the body of water. There are two zinnia rows and they are both over 300 feet long. In pix #2 the wetland is in the far distance and the most of my Wetland Garden is under water (a prior year). That is why I have to be careful when I plant there. Pix #3 (taken while ago) is the fun one - a section of the Wetland Garden.
I have to say that you live in a beautiful area. And you have done a good job of landscaping. You have enough space for zinnias to make some significant progress.
I have grown Thumbelina zinnias in the past. They are quite remarkable, and their first bloom can open when they are only 3 inches tall, and they eventually form a nice little bush about 6 inches tall. Many years ago, before there were any Peter Pans, Dreamlands, or Magellans, I got the idea that I wanted big flowers on a lower plant, so I crossed tall cactus zinnias with Thumbelinas and got what I wanted, reasonably large zinnia blooms on plants in the 12 to 16 inch tall range. My personal name for those zinnias was "Midgets". Even then, when I was young and flexible, it was quite awkward bending down to pollinize or take pollen from a bloom that was only 3 inches above ground level.
Now that I am older, I don't work with short zinnias at all, because I don't like to bend over or kneel to work with my zinnias. I do as much of my gardening as is practical from a seated position, working on my tractor scoot or a lightweight portable garden bench or rocker seat.
If you are interested in short zinnias like Thumbelina, there are a couple more zinnia varieties that you might want to try out. One is an F1 hybrid named "Zinnita":
Another rather remarkable short zinnia is also an F1 hybrid, named "Short Stuff". Swallowtail Gardens' description is accurate: "The large fully double flowers of this hybrid formula mix reach 2.5-3 inches across and the dwarf 8-10 inch plants are outstanding performers whether massed in the garden or used to brighten sunny patio containers. Colors include Cherry Shades, Coral, Deep Red, Gold, Orange, Scarlet, and White.
Some seed companies offer Short Stuff and Zinnita in separate colors. Growers like Short Stuff because a tray of them will be covered with fairly big flowers on small plants, which makes it easy to sell the plants. The downside is they are F1 hybrids, and their seed is fairly expensive, which makes the plants fairly expensive.
If I were working with short zinnias, I would have no qualms about intercrossing several of the F1 hybrids. Such F1 x F1 crosses are actually crosses between unseen "virtual" F2 variants, so the results are "interesting" to say the least. Rose breeders make crosses between crosses between crosses ad nauseam, and it works for them. It works for me with zinnias. I am attaching a few "Razzle Dazzle" zinnia pics.
ZM - The Thumbelina I'm speaking of is the tall with long stems and very small blooms. They get at least 36" tall. I think it is an very old version of a zinnia heirloom. I - too - do not like to deal with the short zinnia - not enough glory for me. I think the shorter version is fine for smaller areas, but they would look lost in my plantings.
So irisMA give those a try. You may be very pleased. I have heard some good feedback on them.
ZM -Your pix's are outstanding as always. The one in #1-2 is my pick. I think its the multi-color flower petals.
"The Thumbelina I'm speaking of is the tall with long stems and very small blooms."
You might be thinking of Tom Thumb (sometimes called Lilliput) instead of Thumbelina. They have small blooms, but I wouldn't call them tall, in the 16" to 18" range. If you are thinking of landscaping, you might consider the Oklahoma variety. It is an improved Cut-and-Come-Again with lots of long-stemmed 1.5-inch blooms on 36-inch plants.
Those 36-inch plants from either the Oklahoma or Scabiosa zinnias would not be "lost" in your plantings. And for taller plants yet, the 48-inch plants of the Benary's Giants or Gigantica zinnias would "hold their own" in a planting.
I think all of the above zinnias are also available in separate colors. I need to grow some more white zinnias next Spring, because I want to do some white x white crossing to get truly giant sized white zinnias. (I don't consider 5-inch blooms as "giant").
A few more zinnia that I have marked to save the seeds from. ZM - Thought you might have some good input on my hybridizing below???
Seems I'm saving a tremendous amount of seeds this year, and I just keep marking the beauties that I'll want to gather a little later after frost. If the seeds dry as well as I expect they will, I would almost be foolish to buy any new seed. It amazes me the many variations that a person can come up with when hybridizing. What FUN. My problem is - I don't just like zinnias - I like just about all flowers. My two rows of zinnia (both over 300 feet long), have now grown together in the center. The weather has been just perfect for them. What can I say?
I echo Sharon's comment about envying how healthy and disease free your zinnias seem to be. Have you sprayed them with something, like a fungicide of some kind. My zinnias now almost all have at least some powdery mildew by now, I did spray some with a fungicide, which kept the new growth clean, but didn't do anything about the mildew that was already on my zinnias. This has been the worst year for powdery mildew on my zinnias in the last 20 years.
Your first zinnia, the one on the left, is your best breeder in those three. It has those "true dahlia" shaped petals.
The middle one, the two-headed one, is not my cup of tea. I have zinnias like that from time to time. At first I saved seeds from one, and even crossed it with some other zinnias, because of the novelty. Sure enough, the broken-headed trait showed up in some of the progeny. To me, the two-headed, three-headed zinnias just look defective. So now I cull them.
Your third zinnia has petals somewhat like those on the first zinnia, only not quite as well formed.
Your first zinnia is my favorite, and since it has some pollen, I would use that to self any still receptive stigmas on the flower, with the idea of getting as many selfs of it as possible. I am including pictures of some current specimens. Some were used as females with crosses involving tubular toothy zinnias and Razzle Dazzle specimens.
We had a recent frost warning (turned out to be a false alarm), so I threw some remay ag-fabric over some of my low hoops to protect some of the breeders. Also a few pics of "normal" zinnias.
You guys are really observant!!! You know - the foliage is in good shape, my thinking is that because the zinnia were planted July 10th (which is probably the latest I have ever planted them there), and they were planted in an adequately moist, but now wet, area - they have thrived - persay. They have not been sprayed with fungiside, etc... I may have applied - very little - 12-12-12 fertilizer at planting time and shortly after they sprouted and came up I applied a small quantity of Preen (which I think was a good idea to help control other vegetation). I have other zinnia in 3 other gardens on higher ground, and their foilage there, is weathered - for lack of a better word. I'm sure some of the zinnia in my other gardens here, have the powdery mildew and I probably should already have taken them out, but I may leave them for the birds to winter on. My thinking is that zinnias and their foliage do great when they are young plants, but after they have some age on them, and have been deprived of rain and once the temps get in the 90's, they begin to decline. I Know that none of the zinnia that I have planted in late April or May (in any year) have ever had quality foliage late in the summer season. It is almost like you need to have two plantings.
Zen - Thanks for the info on the double headed zinnia. I trust your knowledge on them. I'll follow suit with you on those. I enjoyed seeing pictures of your zinnia (or anyone elses) growing and the protective shield you had applied. Glad you did not get the frost. If you get frost, I'm sure to get it next because I am to the E of you. I have been gathering seed from my tagged zinnia and I have a heck of a lot of seed and still more to collect. My two long rows of zinnia have recently grown together, but as soon as the rainy days stop, I'll put on my boots and work my way down between the rows and see what new beauties are there now. Enjoyed seeing pix's of your normal zinnia - I refer to those as cactus zinnia.
We are also rooting for the Royals. Since we are in a rural area we get our TV over-the-air with a directional antenna. The Royals playoff games have been blacked out here, but we listen to the games over the radio. The World Series won't be blacked out. Hope the Royals make the series, and take the series.
Your zinnias are in amazing shape. I did make Fall plantings in mid and late July, and they are in fairly good shape, but their flowers may not have time to make seeds. Fortunately none of them have been "breeder quality" so that isn't an issue. l quit pollinating zinnias near the end of September.
I have planted several somewhat immature embryos from green seeds, and they have produced some weak plants that may or may not "make it". It's analogous to premature babies. But I have also planted some fully developed embryos from green seeds, and they seem to be developing normally in my indoor zinnia project. A green seed is reasonably well developed three weeks after successful pollination. At two weeks they are very marginal. I have lost several two-week embryos seedlings. Their roots and stems are very spindly and their roots seem barely able to absorb nutrients.
But the three-weeks-plus embryos seem to be doing fine. I am coming to believe (from reading and from observation) that green seed embryos need plenty of phosphorous to make new tissue, so I am going to switch from a normal growth formula to a blooming formula for my seedlings, because the blooming formula has more phosphorous.
One big goal of my indoor zinnia project is to develop some hybrids between the Razzle Dazzles and larger zinnias, to develop a larger version of the Razzle Dazzles. I also want to develop a strain of "needle petaled" zinnias, which are just a version of the tubular petaled zinnias with very narrow petals. In a way, they remind me of a dandelion seedhead, but without the parachutes on the seeds. I am attaching a few pictures of them. I hope to grow several examples of them indoors and do a lot of cross pollination involving them.
Keep on enjoying your zinnias. I am actually envious of your dahlia petaled specimens. I'll be on the lookout for some of those in my zinnia patch next year. In the past I have seen some similar ones in my zinnia patch, but I neglected to save seeds from them. I have so many different goals for my zinnias that I wonder if I might "have too many irons in the fire".
That last picture shows that some of my "toothy-tubular" zinnias, when they are "young", can have a similar look to the needle-petaled zinnias. The truest "needle petals" are #2 and #3. I hope to have some of those growing indoors this Winter.
Zen - I see what you are talking about with your, "needle petals" - indeed needles. Like a starburst.
I did walk among my two long rows of zinnia today (with boots of course). Still raining off and on. I gathered some colorful blooms with long stems, just opening, in hopes of drying and them keeping their color. Will see. I found a few more blooms unique to the regular zinnia. Did not have camera in hand, so no pix's.
I have no greenhouse, so when the frost stops the zinnia activity here, I'll have to wait until spring to begin again. About a 6 month break. Will give me a chance to sort various seeds and reorganize myself.
I'm glad you appreciate my photography. Here is a photo of a "Razzle Dazzle" zinnia, followed by a close up of the same bloom, which was merely cropped from the original photo. I think over half of my zinnia blooms have some kind of flower spider in them. Sometimes they are so small you wonder what kind of "prey" it could overcome.
I haven't emphasized them much this year, but I am also working on a strain of "toothy" petaled zinnias. Attaching a picture. Some of my previous messages have also included pictures of toothy specimens. This Winter I hope to grow some hybrids between Razzle Dazzles and the Toothy types.
I am curious what the F1 hybrids will look like, and even more optimistic about what might pop up in the F2 hybrids. Those F2 recombinations of genes between the Toothy and Razzle Dazzle grandparents will be exploring some new territory in what zinnias can become.
ZM, I would be upset if the games were blacked out. We are blacked out on San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and Arizona baseball and football. They are all at least 4 hours away by car and it is absolutely crazy.
The weather here is way better than a normal October. The next 3 days we are supposed to have temps in the low 80's. My heart skipped a beat yesterday morn when we woke to 35 degrees and ice was on the windshields of vehicles. Luckily my Wetland Garden, where my best zinnia are right now, basically survived. I notice a few of the zinnia are a little cooked (persay) on their tops, but all in all they still look great. I picked several bouquets today. Nothing like sharing and having a few in the house to enjoy all the time. I'm even trying to dry a few, as they are just beautiful this year.
this is really some very inspiring work, ZM - i thought for a while to start hybridizing, but always feared the timescale - i only thought about peonies or passifloras (which both take years to flower), but after this I really think i should give annuals a try - I might limit myself to 2 generations per year though, keep it outside only. at least with calendula and love-in-a-mist I know 2 generations will work - they already do this on their own... and both won't be instant frost kills as the zinnias. I've already ordered the book you mentioned above.
as to your spectacular flowers: keeping to the tradition of naming flower shapes after other flowers I'd call the tubulars which open up at the end "Lantana-Flowered", especially if the center has a different color, and there was one reminding me of centaurea montana - the tubular with the wide split ends. Both very impressive!
I like zinnias because they are fast to show you results. I considered calendulas but they didn't have enough color range for me. Zinnias have all colors but blue. I am guessing that your location is not favorable for hot weather plants. And Nigella damascene prefer cool weather, so they would be suitable for your climate. They don't have any yellows, oranges, or scarlets and their reds are a bit weak. But they have a similar color range to Bachelor's Buttons, which are also an annual. Do lupines grow well in your area? They have a rather complete color range.
I have second generation seedlings from my current indoor zinnia project. Many of them are hybrids between hybrids, so I may get some unusual results.
my climate is somewhat unpredictable - I've had first frosts between 5th of October and 19th of December, I have last frosts between end of march and the proverbial ice saints (I just realized through my online dictionary that the term does not exist in English - there is a high chance for frosty weather around the 15th of may in central Europe). 2014 I had an extremely dry spring (even lost buds on my tree peony to drought) and quite a wet summer. problem is: we can get continental type weather from the east with hot summers and severe freezing, and Atlantic weather with mild and wet winters and summers. so yes, I should go with something robust.
I see your point in Calendula, Nigella seems to have more parameters, including shape and color of the capsules, in bloom and afterwards and a wider color range, and they tend to change colors over time. Plus: they look beginner friendly by openly presenting all the male and female parts...
Lupines are more or less biannuals, if I remember correctly? I didn't get that when starting out gardening and was so disappointed when they disappeared after 2 or sometimes three years. I'd say their color range is too perfect to explore it any further? I'd personally prefer Alcea rosea as a biannual, but they are cursed with malvae-rust around here, and breeding towards disease resistance is quite a difficult criterion to select. Digitalis could be one way to go, as I have a lot of places which get a few hours of shadow a day. Their color ranges from white to deep purple through the purpurea species, and grandiflora was used to get yellow and orange to the mix. could be interesting...oh, so many ideas, so little space in the garden...
Seeing your first picture I finally see how the winter generations can work - artificial lighting is another thing I didn't consider before. Well, maybe if i do get addicted...
Have you ever tried to get stable forms of your crossings? I've read about tomatoes that they need about 7 generations of selection to get stable even though they usually pollinate themselves. I wonder how long this takes with forms that are self-sterile?
I love Iris (especially my I. Bucharica) but I'm not good at sowing them - I tried some I. sibirica and some dietes (ok, no iris, but close) and did not get a single plant, no matter how much refrigerating and such efforts... I'd say i start with plants who actually want get out of their seed ... the closest thing to an Iris i ever got to germinate was a Tigridia Van-houttei...and that one is yet to survive its first winter.
Yes, lupines are biennials. That would limit you to one generation per year. Snapdragons are annuals that prefer cool weather, and I think there is room to breed them. They have a complete color range (also lacking true blue), but mutations have made several variations on their flower form available. And their plant habit varies quite a lot as well. And the individual blooms can have one color or two colors and possibly even more. Digitalis can be quite attractive, although I think it is also a biennial or possibly a short-lived perennial. Searching for a good breeding subject in the cool weather category can be a bit challenging.
" Have you ever tried to get stable forms of your crossings? "
I have and I am currently working to stabilize some forms. Theoretically you can get a zinnia stable in about 5 generations of inbreeding. And theoretically you could grow that many generations in a year if you combined indoors and outdoors culture. (My second generation seedlings of my indoors zinnias are growing now and I am on track to be planting a third generation indoors before Spring.)
The funny thing about stabilizing a particular zinnia is that, each generation, you see slightly improved versions (and sometimes more than slightly improved versions) of what you are trying to stabilize, and it is impossible for me to avoid the temptation of using those slightly or more than slightly improved forms. And that continues. Each generation of "stabilization" becomes instead a generation of incremental improvement. I don't know where that process stops, or even if it stops.
I have several ongoing zinnia projects and, this Spring, I will add yet another one -- namely simply larger zinnia flowers. Without trying, I have several zinnias in the six-inch diameter size range every year, so now I will start selecting (and intercrossing) the largest specimens as the basis for this project. I have had a couple of zinnias in excess of 7 inches across in past years, and I have seen catalog descriptions of 8 inches across, so I think that is possible. I am curious how far that project can go. Some Dahlias are over a foot across. I am hoping that a mutation will break the 8-inch barrier for zinnias. And crossing weird stuff together can induce mutations. Fortunately, I have some weird stuff in my zinnias.
>> I have several zinnias in the six-inch diameter size range
>> And crossing weird stuff together can induce mutations. Fortunately, I have some weird stuff in my zinnias.
You go, ZM!
We all keep hoping, I'm sure I'm correct, that some day you will offer some of your genetics around, probably saying things "these aren't FULLY improved" and "they aren't VERY stable" and "these colors will ONLY give you convulsions, not strike you blind". But we would be thrilled!
"We all keep hoping, I'm sure I'm correct, that some day you will offer some of your genetics around..."
I understand that some of my home-hybridized zinnia pictures could inspire a wish that I would share some seeds, because many of these do go beyond what you can buy commercially.
However, I think that the best way to make these available to other gardeners would be for some seed company to acquire my seed stock, increase their quantities in commercial fields, and offer them commercially. There is past precedent for following that path.
If a seed company were to contact me about acquiring my seed stock, they probably would want to have an exclusive on that, and they wouldn't want to hear that I had been "offering some of my genetics around".
So, much as I would like to share some of my new zinnias, I think the best way to do that would be through a commercial release by an existing seed company. And you are right, that I think my present zinnias are not "FULLY improved" or "VERY stable", but I hope to develop a seed stock that would be suitable for acquisition by a seed company. And I very much enjoy the process of working toward that goal.
But my primary goal is still to have fun breeding my own zinnias.