My passion for gardening started with a wild idea that I could grow flowers for my wedding. Zinnias were a mainstay of this fantasy. I love that they were cheap to start from seed, would be blooming when I needed them and sounded fairly easy.
The Benary Salmon Zinnia pictured above was the one I fell in love with online. I loved the soft salmon rose color. The touch of coral.
I sowed seed a little late, mid May. They were just starting by my wedding date of August 1st. There weren’t a ton, maybe a dozen from my 10 plants. I had already known I would need to supplement so it wasn’t a huge disappointment. They kept going into November. Their show was amazing, I particularly loved the little yellow stamens that would peak out from the center, you can see what I’m talking about in the photo above. The ones I left to produce seed for next year developed beautiful variation in their petals.
For reference, I don’t know how to edit photos. This is a raw image taken with a fancy borrowed camera (thanks Mom!).
In the photo above you can see some BRIGHT orange zinnias peaking out. All of the seed for this area came out of the same packet. These were the first ones to flower. So imagine me, checking the flowers every morning, poking around for buds. Waiting for that first bloom and BAM — orange. Halloween orange. At the time it was not at all funny. I gave up on thinking I could ever use my flowers for the big day.
When I was planning my garden and first started looking at zinnias, the dahlia types with a multitude of tightly packed petals were what appealed most to me. Some of the ones I loved the most didn’t look like that one bit. The one above would never end up on a seed suppliers website trying to sell you Benary zinnia seeds. But here it is — light, airy with a certain carefree quality to it. Perhaps even more beautiful than the “perfect” ones I had envisioned as I was sowing seed in the spring.
My garden is done for the 2014 season. I dug up the dahlias that I loved this year, and photos of them in bloom and the tubers produced are below.
The first two photos are of a purple dahlia that was grown from seed. These were grown in an area that was amended with sand and compost in my heavy clay garden. They bloomed profusely, but did not bud until a few weeks after the dahlias grown from purchased tubers. Big, fluffy cloud like booms. I’m curious to know what dahlia form these are considered. Are they similar to any named varieties?
These were interesting in that the purple was a typical dahlia clump, while the yellow had distinct stems with different clumps that were already divided — score!
I was hesitant to grow dahlias from seed because I was unsure of the blooms that would result, but I am so happy I did! The pompon dahlias were some of the earliest to start budding and blooming. The larger cloud like purple and yellow plants started blooming later, I still had blooms into November!
After their leaves browned I dug the roots of the yellow and purple variety to save them. I was very impressed with the tuber quality that resulted from these seed grown dahlias and I’m excited to have more known tubers for next year.
The smaller dahlias I left in the ground to overwinter. I doubt they will come back in my zone 5b Chicago garden and I kind of hope they don’t. I’m excited to start another row from seed next year! Hopefully I’ll be in for a few more nice surprises.
Up next is the only purchased tuber I planted — Wittem. I chose this variety to use for my wedding. I’m sure I’ll have a much more in depth post in the future.
I started with 6 clumps in the spring and I’m not sure how many I have for next year, but wow did they multiply! I’m going to clean them up best I can and store them in a cool spot in the basement. Will divide in the spring and report back.
Not sure I’ll put dahlias I intend to dig up in they clay again as it was a chore to dig them out. Very nice tubers for next year.
It was a great first year of growing dahlias and I’ll continue, but I don’t think they’ll get as large of a chunk in my garden in the future. I will give away a few of the clumps to friends and family. I do hope to invest in a lotus flowering variety for next year and perhaps some consistent bedding varieties. My number one priority next year is fragrance, which dahlia’s unfortunately are completely void of. Their foliage has a distinctive scent I don’t dislike, but it’s not floral.