The Violet Queen Zinnia
For Americans, if there were to be a “Girl Next Door” flower, it would be the zinnia. This flower, which is native to Mexico and parts of Central America, was first offered for sale as seed in 1798 by The D. Landreth Seed Company. These first zinnias were tall, rangy plants about 3-4 feet tall with small, 1-2 inch blossoms. They were ugly and not very popular with Americans. Joseph Breck in 1830 in the first book ever written about American flowers, Breck’s Book of Flowers, says, “The colors of some of the varieties are very brilliant, and particularly the scarlets. The colors are white, pale to dark yellow, orange to scarlet; shades from rose to crimson, from crimson to light purple, lilac, etc.” In 1856 the first dwarf varieties were introduced to Americans, but it wasn’t until 1920 that the zinnia really began to enjoy nationwide popularity when John Bodger, one of America’s greatest seedsmen, introduced the dahlia-flowered zinnia. Years before, Bodger had discovered a naturally occurring zinnia mutation which bore a lush, fully double blossom in one of his fields of ‘mammoth’ zinnias. The Bodger Company worked on further developing this mutation and began offering seeds for sale in 1920. Violet Queen is an old variety, California Giant Zinnia, with a striking magenta to reddish purple color. The more you cut its blossoms, the more it will bloom. We recommend always starting zinnias from seed when the soil has warmed to the touch. Zinnias make excellent cut flowers and can also be dried for everlasting arrangements.
Note: Personally, I’m not a big flower person. If I’m growing it, I want to be able to eat it. But there is something about zinnias that take me back to childhood, so they get a free pass. My mom used to grow them every summer. I can still here her calling them “Zinnis” (pronounced ZEE NEEZ) in that fabulous Arkansas accent of hers. We always had arrangements of these in little vases around the house, partially because they were pretty and partially because they were among the only flowers that didn’t make my sister and me sneeze our heads off. So, another good reason to grow them.
- My Favorite Seed Catalogs (alaskakitchenandgarden.wordpress.com)
- Different Types of Red Flowers (proflowers.com)
- Zinnias (greeneyedgoldie.wordpress.com)
- Painting Zinnias in September (greenwillowstudio.wordpress.com)