I forgot to grow zinnias. Every year I grow zinnias so I can put a vase of flowers on my desk at work but for some odd reason, I didn’t this year. Now in the heat of summer I don’t have many options to choose from but next year I will grow zinnias for summer blooms and on top of that, will start even earlier with spring flowers.
To learn more about increasing the diversity of flowers in my Northern Virginia garden, I have been following Lisa Mason Ziegler’s virtual book study for the past month. Each Friday for 10 Fridays, she posts a 10-minute video that corresponds to a chapter in her book, Cool Flowers: How to Grow and Enjoy Long-Blooming Hardy Annual Flowers Using Cool Weather Techniques. The videos can be viewed on her website any time and she is more than happy to answer questions. Lisa manages a commercial cut flower business in Newport News, Virginia. She is well known in the horticulture field, has written books and given lectures, and has an online garden shop called The Gardener’s Workshop. Lisa is an expert on hardy annuals, which prefer to bloom during spring’s cool temperatures. Hardy annuals differ from the summer annuals in that the seeds are sown in August/September or February/March, depending on the plant. In contrast, summer annuals, like zinnias, prefer the heat so they are sown after the danger of frost has passed in late April/early May.
Of the 30 plants mentioned in her book, I have seeds of six plants on hand. I can start snapdragon, dianthus, and feverfew indoors now and transplant at the end of August. I can direct sow love-in-a-mist, larkspur, and calendula seeds at the end of August to the beginning of September. All of these will bloom in the spring and peter out when summer arrives which will increase my number of cut flowers from spring to early summer. From then on the summer annuals can take over and I will look for a few more in addition to zinnias. In her videos and in her book, Lisa discusses her preference for direct sown versus transplants and starting in the fall versus early spring. If the plant is hardy to a zone colder than one’s own zone, plant in the fall. If the plant is not has hardy as one’s own zone, plant in early spring. However, early spring can mean cold, wet soil so she suggests preparing the bed in the fall and covering with mulch or landscape fabric to prevent weeds and to enable the ground to be worked easily in February and March.
So far I have viewed 5 of the 10 videos and I have read the book. If hardy annuals are something you would like to try, you can catch up by visiting her web site and listening to her videos or buy her book on her site or at a bookstore but it is not necessary to have the book in order to follow along with her videos.
Posted in flowers, seeds
Tagged calendula, cut flowers, dianthus, feverfew, flowers, hardy annuals, larkspur, Lisa Ziegler, love-in-a-mist, seeds, snapdragon, summer annuals, The Gardener's Workshop, zinnias
Probably one of the more common summer flowers is the Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) yet surprisingly it took Luther Burbank, an American botanist and horticulturist, 17 years to develop this hybrid. Inspired by oxeye daises in his Massachusetts hometown, Luther wanted to create an improved daisy plant with larger flowers, a sturdier plant structure, and a longer blooming period. He wanted the petals to be as white as the snow on California’s Mt. Shasta. In the late 1800s, he crossed the oxeye daisy with an English field daisy and then a Portuguese field daisy and a Japanese field daisy. The new species, really a quadruple hybrid, was introduced in 1901. Since then, others have continued his work and to date there are many different cultivars of Shasta daisies.
Shasta daisies are herbaceous perennial plants, about 2 feet tall and hardy to zone 5. They are deer and rabbit resistant and drought-resistant when established. My plants get morning sun and afternoon shade but they can be grown in full sun. The flowers attract butterflies and bees and are excellent for cutting and arranging in vases, which is encouraged to promote continuous blooming. Depending on the cultivar, Shasta daisies can bloom from May to September. Cultivars vary in the number and arrangement of the outer white petals, from a simple, single row to a double row, to frilly or shaggy.
Mine is a Blooms of Bressingham introduction called ‘Freak’ and it has just the right amount of “frilliness” for me. I have had mine for 3 years now with no problems, no pests or diseases. It seems to have expanded which is good because it will soon be time to divide and place in other areas of the garden. If you want to read up on Shasta daisies, the Chicago Botanic Garden trialed 36 cultivars from 1999 to 2006 to identify outstanding cultivars for the northern gardens (my Freak was introduced after the study). Check out https://www.chicagobotanic.org/downloads/planteval_notes/no30_leucanthemum.pdf
The 15th of every month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day where gardeners across the country post about plant that is blooming.
Double Take Orange Storm Flowering Quince
For Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, try planting Double Take Orange Storm, which is a type of quince shrub marketed by Proven Winners (Chaenomeles speciosa). It is has large, orange double flowers but no fruit. I have had mine for five years and it blooms reliably in the spring, can tolerate our Virginia heat, and can take full sun or morning sun and afternoon shade. It is supposed to be deer resistant but I do not have enough deer to testify to that. The way the flowers appear before a lot of foliage and so close to the stem make it a great cut flower for oriental type flower arrangements or for forcing earlier in the spring.
Goldfinch Shasta daisy, La Crema sage, purple flowering hyssop
Every week, I cut flowers from my garden and bring them into the office to enjoy all week long. I like to include herbs as well; sometimes their flowers are just as pretty, sometimes the foliage accentuates the arrangement. These are simple “cut and stuff” vases of flowers based on whatever I have at the moment. I am not a florist but I like to look at the flowers, leaves, and herbs up close this way.
close up of yellow in sage with yellow in daisy contrasting purple hyssop flowers
These two arrangements were cut a few months ago. The La Crema sage blends well with the yellow in the Goldfinch Shasta daisy and the purple flowers from the hyssop contrast with the yellow. Hyssop is a perennial herb that grows well in this area; its purple flowers attract beneficial insects.
In the other arrangement, the Persian Carpet zinnias blend well with the sweet marjoram. Sweet marjoram is known for its culinary use but it is also a small perennial that attracts beneficial insects. The flowers are small and white but the green bracts are much more visible, adding structure and interest to the arrangement.
Persian Carpet zinnias with sweet marjoram
Try cutting flowers and herbs for your office or home by keeping a few glass vases and shears within easy reach. It is a great way to get to know plants up close.
close up of sweet marjoram flowers and green bracts