At Home With Nature

We Grew it From Seed – Will Rogers Zinnias

One of the delights of my gardening life is trying new seed varieties – a pleasure that my husband Chad and I share. Lately though, I’ve been dealing with gut dysbiosis related food chemical intolerance, so choosing seed varieties of tomatoes or winter squash is no longer the easy breezy, fun process it used to be.

No worries, though! I still have flowers.

And although Chad and I are shifting our ornamental plantings towards well-adapted native species, we still enjoy such exotic staples in our summer garden as cosmos and zinnias.

This year, I planted just one type of zinnia, a seed variety I got from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds called ‘Will Rogers,’ an heirloom that dates from the 1940s.

I planted the seeds what seems a long, long time ago, back in spring. Normally it’s not recommended to sow tender annuals like zinnias before the last spring frost, but I find this early planting works best in the short summers we have in our high desert climate.

The seeds stealthily developed while I had my eye on more pressing garden matters, like the phacelia and lettuce, earlier producers.

But as the heat of summer set in, the zinnias had grown to almost three feet tall, and began to unfurl their petals.

Something I haven’t noticed with other zinnias, is that this variety has petals with beige undersides.

This gives each bloom a stripey look at this stage.

Once the petals open, they are an intense, deep red.

Some of the blooms have more petals than other, making it seem like there is more than one zinnia cultivar growing in the garden.

Every year, I plant zinnia seeds because they are super easy to grow, but also because I love seeing them in the garden, with their gold halos contrasting against their colorful petals. They are gorgeous from a distance, and up close.

And getting up really close to the flowers reveals even more delights of textures and surprising details.

As a member of the Aster family, the flowers of this plant aren’t what they seem. Each flower is actually a composite of many, much smaller flowers.

While so far most of our “crop” of ‘Will Rogers’ zinnias has single-style flowers (like a daisy), at least one of the blooms is double, full of ruffles – pleasing to the eye, but not as easy for pollinators to make use of.

But despite that single, ruffled bloom, our pollinator friends are having a good time with these members of our garden, giving me plenty of opportunities to observe them. And our summer residents, the hummingbirds, are enjoying them as well.

And as with cosmos, one of my delights in observing our summer zinnia population is seeing how these blooms transform over time.

These eye-catching flowers fade from deep red to an orange-red hue.

None of them have lost their petals yet, but when they do, I’ll admire them at yet another stage in their short lives – and since we’re only growing one type of zinnia, I’ll be sure to save some seeds.

Why are these flowers named ‘Will Rogers’? The performer and humorist who they honor must have been the life of the party, and as far as our 2022 garden goes, I think these zinnias probably steal the show just as he would have done.

Want to see a few other things we’ve grown from seed?

Lauren’s Grape Poppies

California Poppies

Plains Coreopsis

Costata Romanesco Zucchini

Cube of Butter Yellow Zucchini

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