Arranging With Zinnias

To decide that zinnias will have a post to themselves may well be looked upon with disapproval by those who do not care for them, and who regard all zinnias as rigid and difficult to arrange. I wonder if I can convert these `dislikers of zinnias’ by reminding them not only of the wonderful array of ‘jewel’ colourings in which these flowers come (their quality of brightness in a mixed arrangement is without any touch of vulgarity or crudeness), but also of their lasting qualities for cutting.

In a small area of garden a few zinnias can produce such a collection of colours as can only be seen amongst semi-precious stones in a jeweller’s window.

And so, for the enthusiast of the one flower type of arrangement, there can be little to compete with zinnias. Apart from their colours zinnias have their uses for arrangements in many other ways. The criticism that they look rigid and almost military in their stiffness can be met by arranging them with other, more graceful, flowers, and by cutting their stems at uneven lengths so that some are quite short, which are then placed towards the centre of a group. In this way, too, the full beauty of the petals can be appreciated, spreading out from the dark purple centres in dramatic colours.Arranging With Zinnias

The zinnia, a native of America and Mexico, was only introduced into European countries at the end of the eighteenth century. The vivid brightness and depth of some of the flowers can be easily visualised as coming from a country like Mexico, with its hot sun and brilliant skies. It is this clear, Mexican colouring which is so outstanding in the late summer in European gardens.

For early autumn flower groups either the red, yellow, orange and burnt copper colours are valuable, mixed with nasturtiums, nemesias, montbretia, marigolds, etc., or perhaps the more subtle lilac-pink, deep raspberry and garnet colourings with Michaelmas daisies in the same tones, together with dark purple pansies, clematis (Comtesse de Bouchard), and spikes of lavender.

Zinnias are usually reliable and long lasting for cutting. Miss Sackville-West remarks: ‘As cut flowers they are invaluable : they never flop, and they last, I was going to say, for weeks’. It should be admitted, I think, that there are occasionally some stems which bend and then the whole flower head droops owing to its weight. If this happens it is advisable to cut the stem much shorter, even if it means cutting to within a few inches of the flower itself—in this way there is more stability and firmness, and the life of the flower will be prolonged and — an added point — it will possibly be easier to see into the flower when it is cut short.

If the flowers are bought, and the stems seem floppy, or, alternatively, if they are cut from a garden and have been out of water for some length of time, it may be helpful to give them the same treatment as that suggested for tulips. Snip off the bottom of the stem of each flower and then stand the bunch in a bucket or tall jug, filled with water to the brim. Wrap the stems and flowers round with strong, stiff newspaper and tie in position, leave all night in a cool place. In the morning it is likely that the stems will have stiffened up and give no more cause for anxiety.

Zinnias, because they have so much colour in themselves, can look most attractive with soft-coloured material such as the seedheads of sweet-corn, green poppyheads, green and purple teasels, or the fresh green of hop flowers. (In an arrangement with hops, I have seen zinnias, with their stems cut at uneven lengths, giving the impression of studding the group with precious gems.)

For more on zinnias have a look here.

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