Always start with the latest zinnias

April 21st, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

2016 Zinnia Trial at Mr Fothergill'sThe bushy, small flowered zinnias I discussed here last week, marking this year as The Year Of The Zinnia, are complimented by the taller, larger flowered varieties.

OK, they have far fewer flowers. But the flowers are larger – twice the size, or more, of those on the dwarf types. Most are fully double, and there’s a huge range of colours and colour combinations.

Sourced from around the world, last summer Mr F grew every notable variety around (above). And, looking them over two or three times over the season, one of the things that struck me was this: recently introduced varieties were, in general, significantly better than older ones.

Of course, we expect plant breeders to steadily improve plants and they do. But in French marigolds, for example – with the honourable exception of ‘Alumia Vanilla Cream’ – you’d still be happy with the varieties introduced twenty years ago. Not so with tall zinnias for borders and cut flower.

In the last couple of years we’ve seen ‘Purple Prince’ introduced along with the two colours in the Zinderella Series and ‘Solmar’. I’d definitely start with these.

Bold and impressive both in the border and in the vase, ‘Purple Prince’ has large, clean and vivid purple flowers and, unlike some older varieties, every plant should have fully double flowers.

The anemone-centred Zinderella Series, in peach and in lilac pink, stood out in the Mr F trial. At the end of the season I cut some stems to bring home and not only were they universally admired by visitors but, with a change of water every day, they lasted longer than just about every flower I cut all summer.

And ‘Solmar’, developed by a British company in Britain and in India, comes in four vivid colours with good branching and good tolerance to disease.

Growing them from seed? I’ll be growing some in cells, sowing any day now, and planting them out after frosts. And I’ll also be sowing some outdoors where they’re to flower. Keeping the roots undisturbed is key.

Zinnia 'Solmar Mixed'

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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