Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Zinnias of Inspiration

Post 3

What sights make you smile?

For me it's zipping past a field of blooming zinnias at our local Maple Acres Farm. Why? It takes me back to 1960s Long Island. I'm 5 years old, in the back seat of a Mark IX Jaguar,

curling sandy toes in the impossibly thick, red carpet while wondering what's taking my mom so long at the farm stand.  Salt breeze is blowing in through the windows and I can hear tractor hum far away. Time is taking forever. Then mom is back, thrusting forward a bright bundle of flowers. In one moment: happiness. Proust had madeleines; I have zinnias.

And something of that juxtaposition, that crossing of  fancy, dancy car with simple flowers has stuck with me as a sort of emblem. For I retain a taste for curvy elegence balanced by homespun beauty. It is a taste that informs my garden as much as my memory.

Here is an example of that taste, a small classical pillar topped by ... a bowling ball, surronded by sambucus, phlox, monarda, valerian and firetail. The pillar itself is part of the structure of the garden, one overgrown and partialy hidden by romantic planting. It is topped by the abstract, geometric figure of a sphere, ... sphere as trash-picked bowling ball...

And here is my favorite zinnia for this summer. It combines a touch of green in its dusky rose petals. It is the most elegent zinnia I have seen yet. It makes me smile.

So, what makes you smile?  What sights take you back to a seminal memory that is a sort of emblem of your particular taste, your sense of style in this world?  Because if you really want to make a garden, you need to connect with that deep sensibility at the heart of you. That is your seed from which all the rest can flower.

Now--forgive me, dear reader, as my love of puns makes me abit ADD silly.  A while ago Bill Moyers gave a "gird up your loins" eulogy for populist historian Howard Zinn. So,-- for any of my liberal friends who may need heartening, here is another kind of Zinnia of Inspiration



Zinnias are easy to grow. They like sun and can be started either inside or out once the air has warmed up. Lightly cover the seeds with a bit more than a fingernail's depth of dirt, and keep moist. Here is a good link with all the official info. Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime' is the strain, started from seed, pictured above as my present favorite. Any of the Benary's Giant mixes are also good. When growing them downy mildew can be a problem in our hot, humid summers. Since they are annuals, at a certain point you can just strip the offending leaves off.


Bruce Barone said...

That is some field of Zinnias!!!

Anonymous said...

A bouquet of zinnias also makes me think of roadside farmstands. Only I wasn't sitting in the car, but tagging along as my mom surveyed the enormous beefsteak tomatoes and pried open the ends of the corn to check in search of the most perfect. There would inevitably be a small collection of summer flower bouquest in Mason jars, predominantly zinnias but some with aerie pink cosmos, others with velvety cockscomb or feathery celosia. By the time she'd set down her bounty, I'd be there to offer her my vote for which of these bouquets was the prettiest, hoping it made it obvious that I hoped she'd buy it to bring home with us.

mike said...