Our farm manager Corey said “just like snowflakes” when talking about how each of the Chippendale Daisy variety (Zinnia haageana) of Zinnia flowers look individualized. No two seem to be the exact same. Some are orange with yellow tips. Some have two rows of petals not one. Others are yellow with red dots. One flower will look full while another has minimal petals. This kind of variation is what I admire in zinnias, instead of expecting the same cookie-cutter visual to repeat itself.
Zinnias are one type of flower but the varieties are endless. The big, rounded pom-pom like heads catch my attention first. They have endless rows of petals, or ray flowers, piling the flower taller to reach its ideal thickness. The Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds package explains this Lilliput Mix of zinnias (Zinnia elegan) are “cute beehive-shaped double flowers.”
Many of the zinnias, though are flat and project outward. Some have small centers and others with huge centers surrounded by a ring of vibrant yellow “disc flowers.” At the farm there are yellow, red, and purple rounded zinnias in one bed. In another bed are big pink flowers and small peach ones. The Lilac Emperor Cactus Flowered variety (Zinnia elegan) stands out as having crazy octopus-like petals. All of the zinnias look slightly different but together fall under the genus Zinnia of the family Asteraceae.
What makes the zinnia so beautiful is the dense arrangement of petals forming a larger flower. In fact, zinnias are an inflorescence, meaning each of those “petals” is actually its own flower. Inflorescence is defined as a flower formed by many small flowers. The type of inflorescence depends on how the smaller flowers are arranged to form the larger one. Zinnias are called a “composite head” due to how the flowers are arranged by separate ray flowers that appear to be the petals and disk flowers that look like smaller yellow flowers in the center of the head.
With a heat wave hitting college station, the beautiful yellow zinnias quickly became a sickly yellow the next day. To salvage the beauty and spread it around the town, we harvested fresh, howdy farm “organic” flowers to arrange handheld bouquets to sell at market. The outcome is vibrant, summer-y, and makes me happy.
Taylor Paine, Program Coordinator of Benz School of Floral Design, harvested the flowers and shared her floral design knowledge. I thought I had it down, as I am the only one in the family who arranges the flowers in a vase. However, she taught me the tricks and the proper way of making a bouquet. I learned to crisscross the stems and swirl them in the same direction. We made a bunch of “roundy moundy” bouquets in which the shape of the bouquet is round and forms a dome. Taylor gave me a quick design 101 about other styles, too, like the Flemish style.
Taylor harvested many zinnias, a few wild sunflowers and “brocade mix” of marigolds. She took off the leaves of the cut flowers and immediately put them in water to keep them hydrated, fresh, and turgid.
Outside, I harvested rosemary and chocolate mint (some of which was flowering for an added detail to the bouquets) to add as our “greens” to the bouquets. We peeled away all the leaves from the bottom half of the herbs for easy arranging. Then, we let the creative genius flow!
With so much variation in the zinnias, many of our arrangements were made of entirely the one flower. But they don’t lack in originality! In other pieces we added orange marigolds and a few sunflowers here and there. The Chippendale Daisy zinnias made the perfect base to a warm colored bouquet – my personal favorite.
Come Saturday’s Brazos Valley Farmers Market, we sold our bouquets to spread the color around College Station .
Photos and blog by Jessica Newman