Behind the Scenes: Zinnias

This week I caught up with Maggie Zwilling, with her beautiful zinnias, artistic aesthetic, and laissez faire attitude. She’s a badass. “I’m not a tidy gardener,” Maggie told me, “nor do I care if colors don’t match.” See what I mean?

Maggie is a big chronicler of butterfly and moth activity, and plans her garden with them in mind. Check out some of this summer’s swallowtail visitors from her garden:

Zinnias are easy annuals to plant and care for. They add vibrant pops of color throughout your garden, whether they’re the centerpiece or sprinkled in. Plan ahead to make sure you have enough for a cutting garden, so that even when you’ve got a bouquet of zinnias indoors, there’s still some gracing the garden.

For more information on zinnias, check out:

Behind the Scenes: Cut Flowers

For the next couple OG columns, I’m going to focus on supremely summertime topics in the garden: flowers, vegetables and fruits. To kick it off, I caught up with Nicole Rosenberger, who owns Turtle Rock Gardens and is part of the Red Roots Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription program. Her combination of annuals and perennials paints the county in blooms.

When I asked if she brought in any cut flowers for herself, she said: “I always have lots of cut flower around the house–I’ll never get tired of them! I grow them because I love them so much.  I mostly just have the cast offs from making bouquets though, rarely do I go out and make myself my own.”

Nicole grows a regular cadre of annuals, including zinnias (her fave), dahlias, snapdragons, lisianthus, nigella, cosmos, ornamental tobacco, celosia, amaranth, sunflowers, scabiosa, and marigolds. And when I asked if there was something she’d like to try, she said, “There are so many flowers out there I would love to grow but I only have so much space!  I try a few new things every year.”

That’s some pretty sage gardening advice that applies to everything in life: try a few new things every year.

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Garden Project: Dried Flower Bows

Every year we grow globe amaranths in the summer so we can clip and dry them, and use them in lieu of ribbons. They make really pretty bows, and if you’re careful while unwrapping your present, you can put them in a little vase. Side note: globe amaranth‘s (Gomphrena globosa) are easy to grow, drought tolerant, and do well in the ground or in containers. When we dry them, I trim them into neat individual stems, tie a handful together with jute twine, then hang them upside down on a hanger in a closet upstairs. We usually cut them in late September and by Christmas they’re ready for packages.

Plant a cutting garden

When planning my gardens, my goal is always one and done. By that I mean: plant evergreens and perennials and enjoy the fruits of my labor from the deck with a nice glass of wine. But every year I add a couple annuals in to my cutting garden, because zinnias. And cosmos. and globe amaranths. Annuals make the butterflies happy, they brighten up the meadow, and they give me pretty things to clip and bring inside. Don’t have a cutting garden yet? It’s easy. Pick a sunny spot with good drainage. Prepare your soil (it should be loose and weedless, add in compost and fertilizer if you’ve got it), plant your plants and cover with a light layer of mulch. Good plants for a cutting garden include bulbs like daffodils, gladiolus and tulips; annuals like zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers; and perennials like lavender, coneflower and coreopsis. Flowering bushes like roses and lilac are also great for clipping and bringing indoors–but consider anything that flowers or has interesting texture. Some of my oddball favorites are lantana, euonymus, lorapetulum, azaleas, and huechera.

What annuals do you plant in your cutting garden?