3 September 2021

Flower Focus: Zinnias

Zinnias are one of those flowers that we really struggled to get hold of as florists. They would be on the auction when it was their season and their bright, joyful colours so often caught our eye, but any time we ordered them they would arrive in bad nick; the petals browned and bruised, the heads bent. We think it’s because they don’t like the cold temperatures of the flower warehouses but in all honesty, we don’t really know. In the end, we gave up buying them but would always look longingly at them every time we spotted them on the auction when their season came round again. This inability to have them made us want to grow them even more to see if we could finally solve how to transport them well, and we couldn’t have made more mistakes if we tried.

The first round of zinnias we sowed about a month too early. We were trying really hard to get a jump on the season and thought if we could get them earlier we would be able to lengthen the flowering window. Anyway, 600 of those seedlings froze to death.

Round two. A more promising (and patient) start; seeds sown when they were meant to be and sheltered from the cold, then, enter the coldest, driest spring you ever did see. So our field dried up. We have clay soil and you couldn’t even get a fork through it to break up the ground to accept water from a hose. All our seedlings were sat sulking in cell trays for weeks, unable to be planted out. When we finally planted out the seedlings, we lost a thousand to slugs in a matter of days. If we weren’t so devastated, we’d have been impressed.

The second set of zinnia beds were at the top of the field and although parts got nibbled, the destruction wasn’t nearly so bad, so finally, we got to see some of the most beautiful zinnias bloom, ones that we’ve only ever seen pictures of. We’ve learned that you have to wait until the stems are super study before picking and we don’t keep this variety in the cooler because, as we suspected, they don’t like it, so we cut these in smaller quantities and send them out straight away instead. We’ve also done a panic late sowing in July of zinnias in the polytunnel, to see if we can not only elongate the season, but also escape the slugs. So far, so good, although we’d say the slugs have still managed to get around 20% of the crop.

We’ve trialled a few colours this year and we’re so excited to try out more shapes and colours next season. We’re also hoping our ducklings will be our new slug slayers, so fingers crossed they eat the slugs and not the plants (which we are still not 100% sure they won’t). Zinnias, it’s been a bumpy ride, but you’ve been completely worth it.

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