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It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 5

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Greetings to all,

Welcome to this continuing message thread. The previous part of this ongoing series, It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 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.

ZM

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South Hamilton, MA

Many different colors?

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi IrisMA,

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.

ZM

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South Hamilton, MA

I prefer the color on the first one, but that is just me. Good luck with the project.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

IrisMA,

Thanks for wishing me luck. It looks like I am going to have a variety of the "toothy" zinnias this Fall.

ZM

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Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

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.

ZM

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South Hamilton, MA

Glad you have a new concentration. Good luck with it.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

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.

ZM

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Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

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.

ZM

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South Hamilton, MA

I liked #2 in your first post the best. Has the dry summer weather bothered your zinnia at all? Here the lack of water cost us some of our iris plants & slowed down the growth of others.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

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.

ZM

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South Hamilton, MA

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.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Zen_Man,

Do you have yen to trade for "Zinnia peruviana" seeds? Elijablue has some.

Check out the Seed Trading forum:


Elijablue - http://davesgarden.com/members/Elijablue/
>> Seed Trading: Zinnia peruviana seeds
>> http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1309584/

>> "I have extra seeds from a seed exchange (not DG). I'm open to items not on my want list."

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/866/

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

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".

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Understood. Good luck wirth those interspecies crosses. I learned from South Park that they are facilitated by lots and lots of beer.

Lowers their inhibition, or something.

;-)


This message was edited May 1, 2013 12:20 PM

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Do I give the zinnias the beer, or is that for me?

ZM (grin)

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Whatever needs un-inhibiting!

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hello everyone,

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.

ZM

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South Hamilton, MA

Great color also. I didn't get many iris pods this year.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

I hope to get a flower form like this in a complete range of zinnia colors.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Your blooms are always surprising. They're like a Far Side cartoon wjhere the punchline is "Can they DO that??!??"

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Those frogs crack me up every time I see them.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

And you think YOU'RE a zinnia hybridizer!!

Gotten any frog-zinnia hybrids yet??

Could this be a case of tree-frog-envy?

:-)

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

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.

ZM

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South Hamilton, MA

Not very many iris pods this year from me, but the bees have been busy. We can send those seeds to several iris groups.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

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)

ZM

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Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi all,

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.

ZM

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South Hamilton, MA

I really like the colors on the red violet flowers.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Lucy,

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.

ZM

South Hamilton, MA

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?

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Lucy,

I am not on FaceBook, so I have no idea if there is a zinnia hybridizer group there. I would be surprised if there were. The book, "Plant Breeding dor the Home Gardener" by Joseph Tychonievich

http://www.amazon.com/Plant-Breeding-Home-Gardener-Vegetables/dp/1604693649/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376370398&sr=1-1&keywords=plant+breeding

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.

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)

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South Hamilton, MA

I have not seen white ones. Years ago Burpee was putting out a prize for developing a white marigold. DH does like white flowers (he says), but he likes lily of the valley.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

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.

http://www.burpee.com/flowers/zinnias/zinnia-white-wedding-prod000445.html?catId=cat100022&trail=

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".

ZM


This message was edited Aug 13, 2013 9:38 AM

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South Hamilton, MA

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.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi, Lucy,

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.

ZM

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South Hamilton, MA

I could learn, but at 78 it's too much work for me.

Warners, NY

It's too confusing after seventy five!! I check the obits every morning to see if I'm there and what someone might have written----------------------------------------------------Weedy

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

A friend used to make fun of his Mom's obsession with never missing the nightly news. When she came out of the TV room, he would ask her "So, are we at war yet?"

That hasn't worked for him for QUITE a few years now.

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Hi, all,

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.

ZM

West Babylon, NY(Zone 7a)

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.

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