UPDATE: The winner of our Instagram zinnia seed raffle is @gardensbytara! Some Queen Red Lime beauties are coming your way. Cheers!
"Happiness held is the seed. Happiness shared is the flower." -John Harrigan
There is no doubt that a growing organic cut flower movement is taking hold in the US. As we become more aware of the effects of pesticides and herbicides on our health and that of the animals we love (like native bird and bee populations) we're looking back to the land to see how we can help, rather than hurt. The American flower industry took a hard hit from foreign trade agreements with South American countries including Peru, Bolivia, and Columbia in the 1990s. Since then, 58% of US flower farming operations have closed. Test your knowledge of the US floral industry with this fun quiz on the Field to Vase site.
What's more- there are now places in our natural foods markets for locally-sourced flowers, too. Take a look and see what you find the next time you are out shopping. And check out this great book: Debra Prinzing's Slow Flowers is to the flower industry what the slow foods and farm-to-table movements are to foodies.
How can you help? Buy local flowers and encourage your friends to as well. Local flowers serve local bees, who in turn maintain the health of the locally-sourced agricultural products that you also like to purchase.
Want to go a step further? Try growing some of your own blooms at home. There are a number of seriously easy flowers to grow. Zinnias are so easy that they don't even like to be watered regularly. Yes- you heard that right. If you live in a temperate area (think, climate where grass can grow relatively well without water) you can grow zinnias with very little work.
I was skeptical at first. But I am happy to report that I was wrong. Zinnias really are the least fussy annual flowers that we grow. We put them in the worst soil on our farm (next to a driveway in sandy/rocky soil that is low in nutrients) and withhold watering after they've established themselves. And- they give and give and give until the frosts take them down in October.
You can direct sow zinnia seeds after all danger of frost into beds with loosened soil. Water them well initially. They will take off and start blooming mid-to-late summer. Or, start them early in cell packs. If you're starting with the cell packs, water well from the bottom and keep the cells evenly damp until you transplant the seedlings and they acclimate to their new beds. Be sure to "pinch" (cut off the main stems) zinnias to encourage branching and greater flower production after you see a couple pairs of leaves on the main stem. I was too afraid to do this in our first season. A groundhog did it for me, and I'm grateful he did! Ours require little weeding initially and next to no help as they mature. We work to keep the edge of the grass away from the bed and let the zinnias go to work! (Space zinnias as directed on the seed packets)
There are tons of beautiful varieties of zinnias- many of which are coveted by specialty flower growers. We're a fan of the Benary's Giant, Zinderella (scabiosa flowering varities), and Zahara (hot weather tolerant) series. When selecting zinnia seeds to grow, first consider the colors that you love most. After that, we prefer subtle variations in color from the center of the flower to the edges of the petals. Large-scale, commercially grown flowers tend to be missing that tender quality.
Happy growing from our farm to yours.