Here at Bear Creek Farm, as harbingers of high summer creep gently in, we love nothing more than to see people who have never grown flowers before feeling called to try it. It is as if, even as the earth stirs and wakes up, so too does the oft-forgotten wellspring of possibility that lies within us all. It evokes the nostalgia of an endless childhood summer day. (As we get older, we forget to try new things – why is this?)
For the novice grower, we have one word for you: zinnias.
Zinnias require very little tending. Honestly.
Zinnias, by nature, are obliging. It would seem to me, that if missions could be attributed to flowers, that the mission of a zinnia would be to inspire confidence in novice flower growers. Zinnias seem to delight in their ability to train (both literally and figuratively), people who may look - and feel - a little lost in a nursery. They stand there, with a basket on their arm - unsure of what to buy. If you are that person listening to the quickening, resist the impulse to feel overwhelmed. Do not flee.
- Start with zinnias. Zinnias are your friend – they keep it simple. There is no need to buy fabric or hoops. It is easy to make simple things hard. Plant a zinnia seed and it will grow.
- You can plant zinnias late. If it feels like all your “real” gardener friends started their gardens months ago - before the warmth intermingled with the sun, and the light changed – the days becoming longer – zinnias can be planted late. So no, it is not too late. You have not missed your window. You too can join in the fun.
- Zinnias allow you to be impulsive. Zinnias don’t have to be started indoors. When the spirit moves you, you can just grab a packet of Zinnia seeds and a trowel or hoe (a spoon is good too if you don’t even have a garden tool) and get outside. Dig right on into that fragrant, rich soil. (Make sure to inhale deeply.) Place the zinnia seed, replace the soil - and the flower will come up.
- Zinnias love heat. Zinnias thrive in heat. There is no need to worry about cooling them down. (In fact, they dislike this effort.) They just grow – single stemmed, straight, and elegant. If you want to get a little more out of a zinnia, you can "pinch" (cut back stem tops before flowering) or “deadhead” the bloom. (Deadheading means clipping the bloom from the stem when it has faded.) These acts send a signal to the plant to produce more flowers.
- Zinnias are similar to sunflowers, in that they are carefree. Carefree, beautiful things are gifts from nature – an invitation to exhale. Full disclosure: we understand that both zinnias and sunflowers tend to invite strong (sometimes polarizing) personal aesthetic reactions. For a novice grower, it is hard not to listen to the opinions of others as gospel. However, we would like to remind that these initial reactions are often based upon incomplete information. Here is where your “new eye” is a gift. You are entitled to your own opinion. (See #6.)
- The student can be the teacher. Even experienced gardeners may not be fully aware of the range of colors and varieties both zinnias and sunflowers offer. Sunflowers are usually thought of as yellow – and very yellow at that – but there are other surprising varieties. Zinnias are similarly rich in colors and unexpected petal formation. In planting your garden, you may become an accidental authority on possibilities about which your “more experienced” gardener friends may not know.
- Zinnias are freeing. Zinnias can seed the confidence of many people who are, in a certain way, trained to measure success in overly defined ways. Gardening is a way to detach rigidity in measuring this - and simply converse with nature. This conversation is a long one – early success can inspire a grower to keep striving.