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It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Posted by maineman z5a ME (My Page) on
Sun, Sep 30, 07 at 22:16

I think that some of you out there might find that it is fun to breed your own zinnias. You could easily start now by tagging a few of your favorite zinnias, since they are probably in the process of going to seed this fall. When a seed head and it's stem attachment point becomes brown, it is ready to "harvest". Bring it inside to dry and after it is dry, you can take it apart to recover your seeds for next year.

You can accomplish a lot by simply saving seeds from your best zinnias. Each year your zinnias will get better and it may not be long until they are better than anything you can buy.

You don't have to cross pollinate to be successful with home zinnia breeding, but hybridizing can add a new dimension to the hobby and, as I told oxmyx in the Anomalous Zinnia message thread, it isn't hard to do. It's really interesting to see your very own hybrid crosses opening up for the first time.

Of course, I always enjoy the anticipation of any new zinnia opening, but it really adds to the experience when it might be a new zinnia color, or even a whole new kind of zinnia.

When I was a kid on our Oklahoma farm, I tried unsuccessfully to cross zinnias and marigolds, but I also made a few successful crosses between zinnias, and I really liked that. Later in Fort Worth we had a garden where I did some zinnia breeding, but I was working full time and didn't have a lot of free time to devote to the hobby. During subsequent career moves we were renters and didn't have access to gardening space. But I am retired now, living here in Maine, and last year, it all "came together" when gardening space for zinnias became available, and I could renew my zinnia breeding hobby.

Last year I planted Burpee Burpeeanas, Burpee Hybrids, Whirligigs, and Park's Pastel Scabiosa Flowered zinnias. I made several dozen crosses last fall and saved enough seed to fill the garden this year. I started some of my hybrids early under lights late in April and early in May. Some of them were actually blooming when I set them into the garden in early June.

I immediately began crossing some of my hybrids with each other and by planting partly green seed I started a second generation as a fall crop, which I re-crossed and am saving seed from now. With a killing frost possible at almost any time here now, my zinnia patch is definitely in the "end game." But I already have enough seed to continue the hobby next year.

Crossing F1 hybrids with each other, or saving selfed seeds from F1 hybrids, produces some very unpredictable results. I have filled a compost pile with rejects, but there have been some interesting "keepers" as well. So, as they say on the TV reality shows, "expect the unexpected."

I'll be posting several pictures of interesting specimens that have appeared this year. Zinnias are fast growers and bloom relatively quickly, so you don't have to wait long to see your results. Other ornamentals, like daylilies, iris, roses, etc, require you to wait years, not a month or so, to see your new flowers.

This specimen is a hybrid between two hybrids. It owes its petal form to one Whirligig grandparent, its flower size to a Burpee Hybrid grandparent and to a Burpeeana grandparent, and its subtle two-toned color pattern is a combination of factors from all four grandparents. I designate good specimens as "breeders", give them special attention, use pollen from them, and save seeds from them.

MM


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

This specimen has a combination of white and dark rose that I think has a lot of possibilities for improvement to create white zinnias with colored petal tips.


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Rose tipped white specimen

This one is a selection from Zig Zag.


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A marigold flowered zinnia

I have had several specimens that I think of as "marigold flowered". They all have scabiosa flowered parentage.


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Same colors as 'Zowie'

This one has the same colors as the popular Zowie, but with a somewhat different flower form, and Whirligig parentage.


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An echinacea flowered zinnia

This is one of the specimens that I think of as "echinacea flowered" zinnias.


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Another marigold flowered zinnia

This is another F1 hybrid that looks like a marigold. One parent is a Scabiosa flowered zinnia, the other a Burpeeana.


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A scabiosa hybrid F2 specimen

I will probably keep seeds from this one, but it is a little bit marginal. At least it looks different.


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Some zinnia fireworks bursts

There is a lot of potential to white tipped petals, but this color pattern would look better on a spider flowered zinnia.


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A scabiosa flowered selection

I think these scabiosa flowered zinnias have a lot of potential in breeding, because they don't have conventional yellow disk florets.


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Subtle bicolors

The advantage of crossing Whirligigs, Carrousels, and Zig Zags with other zinnias is that you can get more subdued bicolor combinations.


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A pastel bicolor

Crossing bicolors with solid colors can produce more muted color combinations.


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Thin petals can have a different look

The petal form of this F2 actually came from a Whirligig grandparent.


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A similar bi-colored petal form

I actually like thinner petals because they allow better air circulation through the flower.


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A modified two-color combination

Hybridization modified the original colors of a Whirligig grandparent.


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An F2 with a scabiosa flowered parent

The parent was an echinacea flowered F1, and like many F2s, this one is a bit of a disappointment.


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Bicolors come in a variety of patterns

The amount of each color on a petal can vary widely. Here the base color occupies a rather small area.


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Another modified bicolor combination

Hybridization multiplies the number of original bicolor combinations.


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Another scabiosa flowered hybrid

This one got longer border petals from the cross, without much other change.


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A yellow weirdo

This one looks so unusual, I am actually going to save seeds from it. Some of the petals are unusually wide.


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A Whirligig re-emerges

This F2 looks very much like one of the Whirligig grandparents. The colors are OK, but I don't like those upcurled petals.


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A tiny hint of a bicolor

This F2 actually has an almost unnoticeable touch of yellow at the base of each petal.


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More modified bi-coloring

This hybrid of hybrids has a low contrast bicolor pattern.


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A dahlia flowered zinnia

The broad petals on this specimen actually do remind me of a dahlia.


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A sunflower flowered zinnia

This one reminds me of one of the new sunflower varieties. The central "head" is very large and the guard petals are large. The male parent was a large red-based-purple Whirligig and the female parent was a brick colored scabiosa flowered zinnia.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

If you self-pollinate the crosses or F2s, how many of those seeds will produce like the one you got the seeds from? If only some of them will be like that one, what will the others be like?

I planted the ordinary zinnias this year. But I am going to try some of the fancier kinds next year and see about doing some crossings. These do look to be more than one kind. I'm going to save seeds from them for next year, too.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Karen,

You have some nice colors and good long stems in those zinnias. Thanks for posting the picture.

"If you self-pollinate the crosses or F2s, how many of those seeds will produce like the one you got the seeds from?"

If you self-pollinate an F1 hybrid, the variability of the F2s depends on how different the parents of the F1 were. If the parents were widely different, then only a small percentage of the resulting F2s will resemble their F1 parent. If the parents of the F1 were very similar, then the F2s will still vary, but within a smaller range.

"If only some of them will be like that one, what will the others be like?"

To me, that's the interesting part of breeding zinnias. The F2s will contain entirely new combinations of the recessive and dominant genetic factors from the F1's parents.

The commercially available F1 hybrid zinnias are very uniform, because they are produced by crossing two relatively pure parent strains. So that's a very simple, and perhaps boring situation. Parent A, Parent B, and F1 hybrid C. Three kinds of zinnias.

But the F2 hybrids display a wide variety of many different kinds of zinnias, with random recombinations of many, many genetic factors. It can be chaotic, but it's not boring. Many, perhaps most, of the F2s will not be "keepers", but there may be a few here or there that are more interesting than their F1 parent, and more interesting than either of the F1's parents. As they say, "variety is the spice of life." The F2s can supply variety.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Maineman, I have really enjoyed the lesson on zinnia hybridization. It inspires me to want to try a few of my own next year. Maybe doing a little research on the subject in winter will help me tolerate the hiatus. My favorites are the scabious flowered types and you are doing some beautiful things with them.
I hope you won't mind if I mine your obvious knowledge a bit. Will you tell me a little about sports in zinnias? Can a sport be duplicated only with vegetative propagation? Is it possible that the defect creating a particular sport be genetically inherent in the seeds produced by the flower that exhibits the anomalous characteristic? Does it matter at what point the damage that caused the characteristic occurred, or is it a moot point in terms of the seeds?
This is why I ask: this sport of Candy Cane Red and White was startling in the garden. Perhaps it is not a sport at all. Does this strain normally exhibit this charactistic? I was not thinking about it when I saved the seeds from this blossom, but I did segregate them from the others I collected and your discussion makes me wonder if I might have more with this coloration next year, or if it might have a genetic component that could affect future generations even though it is not apparent in the next generation. Or do you believe it is the result of some mechanical injury with no genetic component?
Thanks in advance for considering my question.
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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

PDF,

"Can a sport be duplicated only with vegetative propagation? Is it possible that the defect creating a particular sport be genetically inherent in the seeds produced by the flower that exhibits the anomalous characteristic? Does it matter at what point the damage that caused the characteristic occurred, or is it a moot point in terms of the seeds?"

That's an interesting picture of what looks like a Peppermint Stick zinnia, and you raise some interesting questions. I am not certain of the answers.

The solid red sector of that zinnia goes all the way to the center, so it is very likely that the pollen florets in the solid red sector represent the genetics of the solid red sector. By the same token, the pollen florets on the striped side probably represent the genetics of the striped zinnia.

A botanist might refer to this as a chimera. This "split personality" may affect the entire branch that this "flower" is growing on. Remember that a zinnia is a composite, whose flower head actually consists of a number of simple flowers. Each petal is a separate flower, called a ray floret. The pollen florets are referred to as disk florets. Both kinds of florets can produce a seed.

Once again, I'm not certain of this, but the solid red petals might produce seeds of solid red zinnias while the striped petals might produce seeds of striped zinnias. In which case, you could cross the striped side with the solid side by taking pollen from one side and applying it to the stigmas on the other side.

I have experimented with crossing striped zinnias in the past. If you do that, its best to cross the striped zinnia with a light colored zinnia, so the stripes on the hybrid will show up better. I crossed a white striped red zinnia with a scarlet zinnia and got a red hybrid with red stripes.

The two shades of red were slightly different, so you could actually see the stripes if you looked real close. But you didn't notice the striped effect from a distance. Red on red was not a good striped hybrid choice. The stripes should show up on any reasonably light colored zinnia.

I'm not a big fan of striped zinnias, but I believe they could be improved by crossing to obtain different striped flower forms. The stripes might have an entirely different look if they were on a spider flowered zinnia with a flower shaped something like this.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Thank you indeed for your response. The crispness of the separation led me to believe that the difference may have begun at the molecular level, but what you suggest about it occurring at the cellular level makes excellent sense. I wish I had separated the seeds based on which part of that flower they represented instead of just from other seeds from the same plant so that I could explore that further.
I've always considered zinnias somewhat ubiquitous, but this summer I have actually had time to really look at them.
The subtleties are remarkable, and your photos illustrate that very clearly. I think next year will be the year of the Zinnia.
Thanks again.


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Crosses

MM my concern about pollinating is this: Are zinnias self pollinating? If so, how do you keep them from "poluting" yout crosses? And... of course the obvious, do you bag the zinnia so insects will not muck up the cross as well?


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

oxmyx,

"Are zinnias self pollinating? If so, how do you keep them from "polluting" your crosses?"

Yes, when they produce pollen florets they can be self pollinating. But you can control that simply by removing the occasional pollen florets when they appear. Zinnias are supposed to look good, and they don't look good when they produce a lot of pollen. At least, not to me.

"Zowie" showed that excessive pollen doesn't bother a lot of people, and Zowie does look fine in the landscape, just not so good as individual blossoms. Beauty is a subjective thing, but I am breeding both for good looking individual blooms and attractive landscape use. I have to admit that any Zowie-like pollen-throwing zinnia that showed up in my zinnia patch would promptly wind up in the compost pile.

I consider it a bad trait for a zinnia to "throw" pollen, and when a zinnia starts to produce excessive pollen florets, I send it to the compost pile. For the remaining "good" breeder class zinnias, I simply remove and use their pollen florets when they appear. The appearance of "good" pollen is welcomed for application to other zinnias to produce hybrids.

"...do you bag the zinnia so insects will not muck up the cross as well?"

I do make little mesh fabric "hairnets" to keep bees off of zinnias whose pollen I want to use. I started doing that just this year, and it has revolutionized my breeding activities. Last year I was always in a race with the bees to use the pollen before they got it. Bees are after the pollen as food, so it isn't necessary to bag the female flowers that don't have pollen to attract the bees. If you wanted to preserve absolute purity from an occasional "accident", you could bag the female flowers as well. I use the nets primarily to insure that I have access to the pollen of my selected breeders and the bees don't.

I have bagged some female flowers to keep seed-eating birds from eating the seed as it matures, and I will do more of that next year. There seems to be a "season" in early summer when the seed-eating birds are a problem. They haven't been a problem since some time in August. I don't know why. Maybe they migrated somewhere.

The "hairnets" aren't absolutely necessary. But I have found them to be a helpful convenience.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

What do you mean when you say a zinnia "throws" excessive pollen? Do other zinnia types also do this or it is a characteristic of the Zowie alone? Also, why is this a bad thing?

What do you mean when you say you "bagged" some female flowers. How do I tell a female flower from a male flower?
I thought they were both. Was it neither male or female until it was pollinated and started to produce seeds and then it was a female flower?

I'm determined to understand all this.

Thanks,

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Karen,

"What do you mean when you say a zinnia "throws" excessive pollen?"

My choice of words was not the best. When a zinnia produces a large number of disk florets, I say that it "throws pollen". That's just my "pet phrase" for it, and not any official or even common way of describing it. It's a mere verbal convenience, because "throws pollen" uses fewer words than "produces a large number of disk florets".

"Do other zinnia types also do this or it is a characteristic of the Zowie alone?"

Unfortunately, lots of zinnias do it. Zowie is just the only award winning one to do it.

"Also, why is this a bad thing?"

It's bad in my viewpoint primarily because I don't think it looks good. The pollen florets, botanically called disk florets, emerge fresh and fuzzy yellow in the early morning, push out pollen by midmorning (unless the bees "suck it out" first), and by evening those same pollen florets are already starting to discolor. By the next day they are brownish and unattractive, and the day after that they are shriveled darkish mummified remains.

If a zinnia produces primarily pollen florets (throws pollen), the central part of the flower becomes a darkened cone covered with dead material, with a fresh crop of pollen florets and perhaps a few petals at the top of the cone. That reminds me of a plucked chicken with a few stubby pin feathers left on the tail. Obviously a lot of people don't see it that way, or are willing to overlook the flowerhead cones.

But to see what I am talking about, in your picture above, look at the two light purple zinnias in the right-hand side of the picture. Your bottom zinnia of the two has no pollen florets and, as a consequence, has a full head of petals. It looks fresh and good. However, your top zinnia has a dark gap where disk florets (pollen florets) replaced ray florets (petals) and the old pollen florets are now a darkened disfigured area on the flower core. Had they been petals instead, they would still look fresh and the flower would look better.

Incidentally, today I hauled six more wheelbarrow loads of pollen-throwing zinnias, or otherwise "ordinary" zinnias, to the compost pile. Occasionally environmental conditions will cause a chosen good breeder zinnia to throw pollen, and I make allowances for that and use the pollen to hybridize other zinnias.

"What do you mean when you say you "bagged" some female flowers. How do I tell a female flower from a male flower?
I thought they were both."

Yes, zinnias are composites, and are both. By a "female flower" I mean a "good" flower that I have judged worthy of being a breeder and have chosen it to receive pollen in a cross. My female breeders produce hybrid seeds. To make things easy on myself, I choose my females as outstanding looking specimens that don't produce a lot of pollen. Since they are good, I can use what little pollen they do produce (if any) on themselves, or more frequently on other "chosen" females. Once again, I am guilty of using words to mean what I want them to mean. I hope you can bear with me on that.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

Aha, she said. Thanks again for a great explnation. I had noticed that some zinnias made that cone shape and some did not. But I didn't know the reason for the difference. So, a good "keeper" zinnia would have just a few of the florets, rather than a complete circle of them. Okay, I see that. I may be mistaken, but I believe in the past I have seen zinnias with a double row of florets also.

Six wheelbarrow loads! Throwing away the bad ones will probably be my downfall in trying to hybridize zinnias. I'm not sure I can do it. They're my babies! However, I have lots of land to play with, so maybe I can pollinate and tag the ones I like in order to keep seeds they produce for the next planting, and just let the others be.

I've got seeds ordered for several different kinds of zinnias for next spring. I'm going to plant them, cross pollinate them, and see what happens. I like the hairnet idea. I'm assuming that you "bag" the flower head as soon as it appears to be one you want to keep otherwise you could be too late.

We have a long growing season here, so I can probably get at least two generations in one growing seasons. I can hardly wait.

I'm fascinated with hybridizing, but when it comes to waiting two, three years or more to get the results -- there ain't no way.

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Karen,

In Zone 8b, by starting some of your first ones inside under lights, you might even be able to get three generations of zinnias in a year. That's my goal next year, with the aid of a lean-to greenhouse kit that I will be assembling next month.

My first "echinacea flowered" F-1 hybrid zinnias were planted last March inside under lights, and they are still blooming, even though I have saved many seedheads from them and grown a generation of F2s from the lavender-pink one, whose code name is 21-1.

The meaning of that code name is that it was the 21st hybrid that I labeled last year and the first hybrid plant that I labeled this year from that cross number 21. I use code names to keep the labels on my hybrids short, so they will conveniently fit on a piece of Velcro tape that I wrap around the stem. I write the code name on the Velcro tape with a black Sharpie pen. I keep details for the code names in a garden journal. That way I can repeat crosses that produced good specimens, as well as save lots of F2 seeds from them.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Karen,

You can see one of my coded Velcro labels, on the stem just under the bloom, on this "spider flowered" breeder.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

Thank you for the labeling info. Great system! I already own a Sharpie and the velcro tape. LOL.

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Nice and interesting presentation. Thanks for sharing.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Loretta,

You are welcome. I'm glad you liked it. Another of my breeding goals is to develop unusual petal formations, like this "toothy" specimen. I see that a little ant managed to get in the picture.


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More 'toothy' zinnia petals

This is another of the "toothy" zinnia blooms.


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A 'toothy' F2 from the F1 hybrid above

Some of the toothiness appears in this F2 from the F1 hybrid above, but as with many F2s, there isn't an ideal combination of factors. This specimen is single. However, I have high hopes for lots more "toothiness" in good zinnias next year.


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A hybrid with scabiosa grandparent influence

This zinnia was a cross between an echinacea flowered F1 hybrid and a commercial Burpee Hybrid. It shows the scabiosa influence in the center.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

First of all, sorry if I'm hijacking but there seems to be a large amount of zinnia expertise in this thread so I'm going to try my luck. I posted this in the Garden Clinic forum but responses were kinda slow. Here's the original thread, for those of you who are kind enough to take a glance:

What is affecting these zinnias?

This may or may not be related, but I just got my first bloom on one of the unaffected plants and it looks quite sad for a semi-double:

I'm wondering if they're "too healthy" for their own good. Do these leaves look unusually big?

Or this this simply a case of phosphorus deficiency affecting bud formation?

Please bear with the inexperience as this is my first time growing anything from seed :)


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

EC,

I don't have any experience growing zinnias in tropical Malaysia, but it doesn't look like insect damage. Your flower buds are still immature, so it is too early to judge how double they might become.

Since the buds and growing points seem to be most affected, my first suspicion would be a boron deficiency. Is boron listed as an ingredient in either of the fertilizers you are using? This article on nutrient disorders might be relevant.

Tell us more about what kind of growing medium you have in your containers. Zinnias like quite a bit of room for their roots, so they may be overcrowded.

MM


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Zinnia leaf crinkling

EC,

The leaf crinkling could be a symptom of calcium deficiency.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

"Your flower buds are still immature, so it is too early to judge how double they might become."

ohh, I had the impression that the ray florets (is that the proper term?) would be fully formed *before* the bud opened. Perhaps I should just wait and observe, then.

By the way, the buds are not on the same plants that were stunted (the subject of my original post). Those (only two of them) have just stopped growing completely :(

I am growing in one rectangular plastic self-watering container and two 8" clay pots. We have very limited property space here, and I'm am unable to plant in the ground at the moment so you're probably right about the overcrowding. I did think I could make up for that somewhat by providing sufficient nutrients. I am using a general purpose container mix with some bark, compost and perlite. I fertilize with liquid Peters (20-20-20) and Schultz (10-15-10) which are both supposed to have micronutrients.

Could nitrogen toxicity be causing underdeveloped flowers? My mom did mention how my plants look like vegetables :)


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RE: Calcium

@maineman

"The leaf crinkling could be a symptom of calcium deficiency."

Is this likely, considering that other plants in the same pot are doing alright? (I assume you are referring to my original post about the stunted zinnias). If so, what's a possible remedy? Lime?

Sorry again for taking the discussion off-topic. I could start a new thread if you wish.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

EC,

"Sorry again for taking the discussion off-topic. I could start a new thread if you wish."

Zinnia nutrition is reasonably on topic in this thread. I have very sandy soil in the garden and it tends to have nutritional deficiencies. I have noticed some boron deficiency symptoms in a few of my zinnias and I included a trace of boric acid in my GreenCure spray to help deal with that.

However, the more I think about it, I think your zinnias are exhibiting calcium deficiency symptoms. I have had to deal with that problem while growing plants under fluorescent lights to get an extra early start on our short Maine growing season. Our average safe no-frost date is Memorial Day, so I don't start setting zinnias into the garden until very late in April or the first week of June. This year I set out about two dozen zinnia plants that were in full bloom, and in order to do that I had to use calcium nitrate in their nutrient regimen.

Four years ago I began germinating seeds indoors under fluorescent lights, aggressively early, in order to deal with our short Maine growing season. I started onions from seed in January. I started several other vegetables a couple of months early, rather than weeks early. I settled on using Premier ProMix as a growing medium, after being dissatisfied with a couple of cheaper brands. ProMix contains enough added calcium to get seedlings through the first several weeks, but after two months I started noticing calcium deficiency symptoms, and it became evident that I would have to supply my growing plants with some added calcium.

Plants actually need a lot of calcium, but commercial soluble nutrient formulas don't incorporate calcium because it forms an insoluble calcium phosphate precipitate with soluble phosphorous and a relatively insoluble calcium sulfate precipitate with sulfate ions.

Hydroponic growers have to supply soluble calcium, because their water supplies rarely contain enough. They use calcium nitrate, because it is inexpensive, very soluble, and the nitrate is also useful to plants. I ordered a few pounds of calcium nitrate from an Internet source, and have been using it ever since as an addendum to my soluble nutrients for indoor growing. I usually dilute it one teaspoon per gallon of water and apply it separately. They say you can combine it with other soluble nutrients if you pre-dilute each separately before combining them, but when I do that I notice some cloudiness in the solution, which is probably some form of calcium precipitate. However, applying that cloudy solution seems to work.

In your case, you could sprinkle on a little powdered limestone or gypsum to add calcium. For a small amount of calcium, you could powder some antacid tablets that contain calcium carbonate, and sprinkle that powder on or shake it up in the water you use to water your zinnia containers with.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Hi MM,

I can't find an Internet source for the calcium nitrate in small amounts. From where did you order yours?

Thanks,

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Karen,

I got my calcium nitrate from Everybody's Garden Center. It's $1.39 a pound, plus shipping. Actually, for indoor gardening, a pound of calcium nitrate lasts a long time, but I also used some for foliar feeding in the garden. I sprayed some on my tomatoes to prevent blossom end rot. You might be interested in this article about calcium.

I also bought a supply of several other soluble nutrients from Everybody's Garden Center, including mono potassium phosphate, potassium nitrate, and potassium sulfate. Mono potassium phosphate is effective against several foliage diseases as a foliar spray, and is nutritive as well.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Hi MM,

Thank you so much for the links. I've bookmarked them. It's amazing that when I googled for calcium nitrate I didn't have one single retail source show up.

How did it work on the blossom end rot? I had a problem with that on Sunmaster this year. Interestingly enough, that is one of the cultivars that is supposed to be good in the hot, humid south. I think I only got one or two good tomatoes off that plant. I was glad I didn't buy more of them. LOL.

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Karen,

"How did it work on the blossom end rot?"

Well, I didn't have any blossom end rot, but I may have already had enough calcium in the soil. I usually make a light application of gypsum in the fall and a light application of a mixture of gypsum and lawn lime (calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate) in the spring. The calcium nitrate foliar spray was just sort of "insurance" because I had it handy.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

Thanks. I only had BER badly on the Sunmaster. The rest were fine. My best tomato by far was a volunteer that I have no idea what cultivar it was, but I saved seeds for next year. From rereading that article, it seems to me that calcium deficiency may be the answer to some of my vegetables not growing as vigorously as they should. I'm going to try the gypsum and lime next year.

Zinnia question: I notice that most of your zinnias are light colors rather than dark red or orange, etc. I really like the light colors. How do you get these colors? Just by selective breeding or do you start with one light and one dark or two light ones when you cross them?

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Karen,

Actually, I don't dislike the darker colors and next year I will be looking for a few really dark colors. But I do like the lighter colors and last year (2006) when I first renewed this hobby, I planted a packet of White Burpeeanas from Stokes (Stokes has since changed the name to White Cactus flowered) and three of my best breeders were large white specimens, onto which I crossed a lot of things. The white ancestry tends to produce pastel colors.

My very "best" 2006 breeder was a large ivory cream specimen, and it also contributed a lot of lightness in my zinnias. Crossing zinnia colors is not exactly like mixing paint, but it isn't wholly different, either.

Next year I plan to plant a whole bed of white cactus flowered zinnias and look for exceptionally good ones as breeders to continue that trend. In particular, I will be looking for good white spider flowered specimens to use as a breeders, because I want to create a spider flowered strain of zinnias in a complete color range. Hopefully I will have several good whites, and I will include some white on white crosses in my program. But I would also like to get some near-black dark purple or mahogany colors. I think that a strain of dark colors with contrasting light colored tips would look particularly good in some "open" flower forms with long thin petals.

I also plan to grow some green zinnias and experiment with crosses between green and lots of other colors.

I will also continue with the scabiosa-based approach, looking for much larger flowers with completely different flower forms that look very "un-zinnia-like".

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

Thanks for the info and insight into what colors to start with. I bought some seeds for green zinnias as I thought they would be fun to put in a cross. I also found several bi-color petal types. So, I'm off to buy some seeds for white zinnias to go with the bi-colored ones I already have.
I especially like the "un-zinnia-like" forms.

Have a good weekend,

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Karen,

Another advantage of using a white zinnia as a female is that when a resulting flower isn't pure white, you pretty much know for certain that it is a cross and an F1 hybrid.

However, for non-white female zinnias, there are other characteristics that can be strong indicators of hybridization. I usually include a reasonably detailed description of my coded female breeders in my garden journal for later reference.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

I've been getting some interesting flowers in my garden the last several years. Now I would like to start making planned crosses. So far, they have been random!
[IMG]http://i225.photobucket.com/albums/dd29/jackier_gardener/Zinnias024.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i225.photobucket.com/albums/dd29/jackier_gardener/Zinnias003.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i225.photobucket.com/albums/dd29/jackier_gardener/Zinnias022.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i225.photobucket.com/albums/dd29/jackier_gardener/aug20061632.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://i225.photobucket.com/albums/dd29/jackier_gardener/AUG2006003.jpg[/IMG]


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

jackier_gardener!

You have been holding out on us! You have some outstanding specimens there! I'm going to link a couple of your pictures in here for instant enjoyment. Did you happen to save any seeds from this beauty?

And you have obtained an interesting "toothy petalled" specimen, as well.

You definitely don't get results like that out of an ordinary zinnia seed packet. I can't wait to see what you are going to achieve next year.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Thanks maineman, for linking those pictures. I probably would not have gone to the trouble of visiting them and would have missed that first beauty.
jackier_ that flower is stunning!


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

I was very happy to discover this site and look at all the really nice flowers you people have been growing! I thought I was the only person to appreciate all the kinds of flowers that you could get from the simple zinnia.
I save as many seeds as I can each year, and keep mixing and planting them together, adding new varieties into the patch each year. All the crosses thus far have been carried out by butterflies and bees. I have a funny feeling I may never be able to improve on their efforts! But, I do want to try and make some crosses this coming summer. I find that the "dahlia" type zinnias give rise to very few seeds, and I have mixed what I have gotten back into the "pot." I don't know what the parents were, but several years ago, I had planted some of the cherry swizzle zinnias, and I think I see their colors coming across, more or less, in some of the offspring each year. They were too short for me, so I just grew them the one time.
Here are some unusual (I think) blooms I have gotten....

[IMG]http://i225.photobucket.com/albums/dd29/jackier_gardener/September2007005.jpg[/IMG] --this one is not all that pretty, just different
[IMG]http://i225.photobucket.com/albums/dd29/jackier_gardener/September2007029.jpg[/IMG]--this one I liked, but there was a lot of mildew starting to come into the patch
[IMG]http://i225.photobucket.com/albums/dd29/jackier_gardener/AUG2006015.jpg[/IMG]--not a pretty form here, but the color was the most brilliant of any zinnia I have ever seen--the picture doesn't do it justice
Again, I really enjoy looking at your photos, too, and look forward to seeing more in the future!


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

I agree that some of the seed companies also use the technique of inter-planting mixtures of zinnias and letting the bees do the hybridization. I saw that this year with both Burpee's Burpeeana Giants and Burpee's Giant Hybrids.

Incidentally, I didn't notice any shortage of bees, although honeybees do only a fraction of the pollination in my zinnia patch. Bumble bees and Carpenter bees were also busy gathering pollen. Hummingbirds also visited frequently, although they were after zinnia nectar and not the pollen, so I don't know if they did any pollination. The same was true of numerous butterflies. There were also some flies and moths that were mimicking bees, but they also seemed to come for just the nectar.

Zinnias such as your "AUG2006003" produce little or no pollen, and whatever bee pollination occurs "accidentally" on them produces essentially 100% F1 hybrid seed. However, bees are looking for pollen, so they will quickly leave a zinnia bloom that doesn't have open pollen florets.

The advantage of doing the pollination yourself is that you get to pick the male parents that you think might make a good cross, even when that male parent might not be a prolific pollen producer. This year I began using little "hair nets" to keep the bees away from my chosen pollen donors. Next year I will extend that practice to protect some chosen females from unwanted pollination and from seed poaching by certain birds.

The bee pollination is fairly random, with a natural bias toward those zinnias that produce a lot of pollen.

When you do start doing your own pollination, I expect that you will see a lot more interesting zinnia specimens. But it looks like you have a pretty good zinnia gene pool right now.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

I am really interested in seeing how some of the colors, color patterns, and petal shapes etc. of the parents are inherited to the next generation. With the seeds I have now, I have really no idea what the genetic background is!
A very mixed one, I know! With respect to the solid colors, it seems that yellow and white are pretty much recessive to the other colors, but then there must be quite a bit of incomplete or co-dominance going on to get intermediate colors. I should stop guessing here and try to find out..

I really liked your flower posted on Sun, Sep 30, 07 at 22:28...really pretty scabious cross, as well as the one posted on Sun, Sep 30, 07 at 22:39. I have had a number of those kinds, but not with such large petals near the center, and the vast majority come out magenta-colored.

I will try your bagging technique to control the crosses. We have bees fortunately (even keep a hive) and unfortunately, a lot of Japanese beetles-- I don't think the latter do much for pollination but they do a number on the foliage for a short period during the summer, then they're gone.

I usually have to rush my seed collecting as the goldfinches wait anxiously to collect the mature and drying seed. So, I gather most of my seed when there is still color on the petals--but they seem to do OK if well-dried after. Bagging may help there, too!


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

Several of the basic colors are each controlled by more than one gene, so there are a great number of possible combinations of those genes, leading to a very large number of distinct color variations in zinnias. It's definitely way more complicated than Mendel's experiments with peas. You are right about white and yellow being recessive or mostly recessive. For that reason, they are much less common in field-grown mixtures.

Incidentally, the scabiosa flowered zinnias don't do well in field-grown conditions, either. From a packet of 50 seeds of scabiosa flowered zinnias, I usually don't get more than two or three good specimens. That might be very annoying to a lot of people, but I find some comfort in the near certainty that I will get those few good specimens to use as breeders. The rest go to the compost pile, to make more room for the few good ones.

Next year I plan to be even more zealous in roguing out those zinnia plants that don't contribute to my breeding objectives. I simply don't have enough space to waste any of it. I'm going to be making a big push to get really "spidery" spider flowered zinnias and one strategy for doing that will be to plant a lot of Burpee Hybrids and Burpeeanas very close together, 6 to 8 inches apart, with the idea that at first bloom every plant that isn't exceptional will be pulled out or snipped out and put on the compost pile. I may have to grow several hundred zinnias to get one "good" spider flowered specimen. This year I had only two encouraging specimens and three fairly spiderish ones, so I had only five spider breeders to inter-cross and self. That will give me a few hundred spider "contenders" for next year and I am hoping that will be enough to make some real progress. I want some really long and thin petals in the spiders, with big airy blooms that you can see right through.

In the scabiosa-based arena, I am hoping to get some huge disk florets, with each floret being rather like a petal of a Jethro Tull™ coreopsis or a Zamfir coreopsis, or something similar.

The ordinary fuzzy yellow disk florets (the pollen bearers) of standard zinnias fade and wither within a day or two, but the disk florets of the scabiosa cultivars are as permanent as the petals (ray florets), lasting for weeks, and I think that gives the scabiosa flowered zinnias great potential for cross-breeding with large flowered zinnias. I will continue enthusiastically with that line of breeding next year.

Incidentally, count yourself lucky with respect to Japanese Beetles. I have been hand-picking them starting from the first of July and ending only a few days ago. I spared the ones with the little white parasitic eggs on their back. The JBs aren't a real threat, in that they do mainly cosmetic damage, but when you are growing flowers, cosmetic damage isn't something that you want. And they will nibble on leaves and flower parts indiscriminately. Oddly, we had a lot of grasshoppers this year, as usual, but they did very little damage in the zinnia patch. They lived up to their name and ate mostly grass in the lawn.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Hi Maineman --you were talking about the cactus or spider-types. Too bad you don't have access to the Zenith series developed by Jeanette Lowe at Burpee. (They disappeared from the trade a few years back.) These had much fuller depth of doubleness than the ordinary Burpeeanas, etc. They used a male-sterile parent which made possible the field production of the hybrid seed.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Maineman - about the white-tipped specimens. I'm wondering if those tips might tend to discolor under strong heat or stress conditions? Perhaps you need to find someone in the more southern mid-west to give these a test run for you now and again.

There was a time when the single or semi-single zinnias would have been dismissed by the flower arrangers among us. Doesn't seem to be the case now. I hadn't grown the Scabious types until recent years. While some plants are weak and flower forms just so-so, there are some nice colors to be had. They go nicely in my mixed bouquets.

Particularly like the color of specimen in your image Z-1117.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Hello, once again!

I know by definition that members of different species are not supposed to interbreed. But, of course, there may be exceptions! Has anyone tried to cross different species (i.e., angustifolia x elegans)of zinnia and been successful?


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

I have to learn to research a little better before asking questions! The answer to the above question that I posted is this:

Yes, species of zinnias have been crossed: the Profusion zinnias have resulted from a cross between Zinnias angustifolia and elegans (http://www.ngb.org/gardening/fact_sheets/fact_details.cfm?factID=8). Who knows how easily this happens, but it may give us opportunities to bring in new characteristics to the plants that we get from breeding.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

paveggie,

"Too bad you don't have access to the Zenith series developed by Jeanette Lowe at Burpee."

Wow! You are more knowledgeable than I am about Burpee's Zeniths. I did grow them at one time, but had no idea who was responsible for their development. I guess that was sort of the "zenith" for Burpee, too, since the company seems to have gone downhill in the years since.

I certainly do wish I had some Zenith seed. I think they would make a great addition to my zinnia gene pool. The flowers were spectacularly large and the petals had excellent substance. They were well named, as the best cactus flowered zinnias ever offered commercially. Do you happen to know any more details about the Zeniths and Jeanette Lowe?

"...about the white-tipped specimens. I'm wondering if those tips might tend to discolor under strong heat or stress conditions?"

I've seen some of the white tips lose some of their purity with age even here in our relatively cool Maine summers. Mainly by the infusion of some of the base color into the edges of the white tip and/or a few spots of the base color in the white area. I hadn't been overly concerned about it, since all zinnia blooms have a prime and then become less attractive in the following weeks before they become a seedhead. But you are right, I should look for white tips that look good longer. And the same goes for yellow tips, light pink tips, etc.

"Perhaps you need to find someone in the more southern mid-west to give these a test run for you now and again."

That sounds like a good idea. I don't have any new cultivars that are stable enough for even limited sharing yet, but it would be a win-win situation for like-minded zinnia hobbyists to share experimental seeds and test new cultivars in a variety of climates.

"I hadn't grown the Scabious types until recent years. While some plants are weak and flower forms just so-so, there are some nice colors to be had."

As I mentioned above, only a few of my scabiosas from commercial packets are good. But the few that are good really distinguish themselves. The plants are strong, very branched, prolific, and durable. Even if they didn't have the unique florets, I would be crossing them for their good plant habits.

"Particularly like the color of specimen in your image Z-1117."

Yes, that was the picture posted on Sun, Sep 30, 07 at 22:58. I liked that color blend as well. It was actually a cross between two F1s, each of which was a cross between a large type and a different Whirligig selection. Crosses of that sort seem to be fairly successful at producing interesting color blends, as well as some interesting rejects. Crosses between F1s produce variable non-uniform results, which in a few cases can exceed any and all of the grandparents. Thanks for your comments.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Jackier_Gardener,

Thanks very much for your link to the National Garden Bureau. Their Zinnia fact sheet has a lot of good zinnia information in one place. Their website has a lot of other good gardening information, including a page about the Zinnia F1 'Distance Mix' which, since it is wholesale distribution, will probably be available to home gardeners only as plants in local garden centers. Nothing to keep you from buying a few plants and crossing them with something.

"...Profusion zinnias have resulted from a cross between Zinnias angustifolia and elegans ...Who knows how easily this happens, but it may give us opportunities to bring in new characteristics to the plants that we get from breeding.

It's not too easy. In order to achieve mildew resistance, the W. Atlee Burpee company made interspecific crosses between Zinnia angustifolia and Zinnia violacea (formerly called Zinnia elegans) to create the Pinwheel series, beginning with Rose Pinwheel in 1987. A bit later, in 1999, the Japanese firm, Sakata, began the Profusion series of zinnias from the same type of interspecific crosses. This is a tricky interspecific cross, because Zinnia angustifolia has 22 chromosomes, while Zinnia violacea has 24 chromosomes, and the cross has 23 chromosomes and are almost always infertile. However, by treating the infertile hybrids with colchicine, their chromosome number was doubled to 46 chromosomes and many of those were true breeding and fertile. That's how the mildew-resistant Pinwheels and Profusions were created.

Incidentally, the Pinwheels and Profusions are frequently labeled as F1 hybrids, and people hesitate to save seed from them for that reason. But, because of the chromosome doubling, they are actually a true-breeding 46-chromosome new species of zinnia, called Zinnia marylandica (in honor of the University of Maryland, where much of the key research leading to the success of this approach was done). So it's perfectly OK to save seeds from Pinwheels and Profusions, with the expectation that the children will resemble the parents. Unless, of course, if you deliberately did cross pollinate various Profusions and/or Pinwheels, you would be creating actual F1 hybrid Zinnia marylandicas, with the opportunity to grow F2 populations of them. Their chromosome count could cause some surprises. That could be an interesting branch of hobbyist zinnia breeding. But for the present, it isn't for me, because I don't like kneeling and bending over to cross pollinate short zinnias. And I've got my hands full with my current ongoing zinnia projects.

I am saving experiments with interspecific zinnia breeding for future years. Incidentally, there are a lot of other zinnia species out there, so the number of possible interspecific zinnia combinations is mind boggling. In the meantime, I will attempt to deal with mildew on my Zinnia violacea (elegans) hybrids by spraying with a product called GreenCure®. Frequent sprayings with it seem to be effective at preventing mildew before it starts, and GreenCure® is very safe to use. It should, of course, be properly diluted before spraying it on. Its unique wetting agent works very well.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

Until mid-September, I get very little mildew. But as the weather starts to cool down, my plants, being close together without much ventilation, and there being a lot of condensation overnight, I start to see it. Other than looking bad, does mildew do any harm to the plants so late in the season? Also, when mildew does arrive, I would think this would be a good time to assess which of your plants may have resistance.

The below link cites a nice chapter in a flower genetics book (2006)--a review on zinnia breeding. I would guess you have already read it, MM.

http://www.springerlink.com/content/g301n60k12l24816/


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

You're right, Jackier, I have read that chapter. I don't own the book (yet) but I read the chapter in Amazon's online sampling of the hardcover edition. I wasn't ready to spend $329 on it, although I can't say I am not tempted by it. There is a recently published paperback edition for $129 that I may decide to purchase. Even though I have read most of the zinnia chapter repeatedly online, I'll bet there is a lot more material in the book that would be of interest, and the online reading is rather tedious. Considering its level of scholarship, the whole book must be pretty good, and I probably will scrape the money together to buy the paperback, or suggest it as a Christmas present. Hopefully the paperback has the same content as the hardback. As far as I know, that book's zinnia chapter is the most comprehensive written source in the subject area of zinnia breeding. You were well informed to suggest it.

I think mildew does do real damage to the zinnia plant other than make it look bad. It is a rapidly multiplying parasitic organism. Although there is some question whether the plant has mildew because its health and natural immunity have already declined, or whether the mildew causes the decline in health. My zinnia plants didn't show traces of mildew until after I had already given them up for imminent death by frost. In the days before frost got them, I took a few cuttings from the breeders to experiment with.

I plan to plant my zinnias even closer together next year in order to grow a larger number in the space I have available, but I plan to at least partially solve the crowding problem by removing all but the choicest specimens at first bloom. The rejects will go on the compost pile, to make available more air and sun for my chosen breeders, and to make space for a successive planting. I sort of did that this year, but I wasn't as thorough in removing non-breeders as I should have been.

There is another benefit to really thorough roguing. If I leave only choice specimens, the bees won't have access to any substandard pollen, so that any bee pollinations will be more likely to produce acceptable results. Let the bees work for me instead of against me. And next year I hope to do even more spraying than I did this year, to prevent not just mildew, but other foliage diseases as well. Rose fanciers spray their roses a lot and my zinnias are my "roses". I have even bought some products from Rosemania. I plan to experiment with Messenger for better zinnia health as well as ProTeKt for the benefits of soluble silicon nutrition.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

I decided that I will start building up some literature as a basis for the breeding I plan to do this coming summer
(and, possibly some things I might do in the winter months..)..

From the link I mentioned yesterday, I did invest $25 to download, save, and print that chapter. There are also some good references at the end of it. And, I am printing many of the things you and others have mentioned on this site. Of course, a day at the university science or agriculture library will also help immensely in gathering any other sorts of background....

Maybe I will be able to do things in more intelligent manner when summer comes..

But, last week, I mowed down my plants, and today is sunny and dry. So I am going to add some horse manure to the plot and till it...probably that is far as I will go for summer 2008 in terms of supplements for the plants, along with some stuff from my compost pile if it is ready!

JG


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

"I did invest $25 to download, save, and print that chapter."

I think that was a good investment. There are other sources of relevant zinnia information, but I think that is the best single source on zinnia breeding that I have seen. And, as you said, there are a lot of good references at the end of that chapter. I think it is good that you are building up some literature on the subject.

"Maybe I will be able to do things in more intelligent manner when summer comes..."

I hope to do the same. For the time being, I am going to focus on getting better spider flowered specimens, better bicolors and tricolors, bigger flowers, stronger plants, and expand the flower forms that I can get by crossing and back-crossing the scabiosa flowered zinnias with large flowered zinnias. I am going to cross green zinnias with other colors looking for new flower colors. I intend to develop better cultural practices and stay on the lookout for any new mutations that might pop up. I like it that gardeners, as a group, are an optimistic bunch. And that next year's garden is always going to be better than this year's garden.

I can't wait to see the new 2008 seed catalogs.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

I am also looking forward to the new seed catalogs! Although, this fall, I have bought more seeds already, far more than usual, and I've started to prepare more small plots about the yard, beyond "the patch." This year, I decided I wanted to get more yellow genes into the zinnia pool, so that I would have more yellow offspring in coming years (I had a lot of red flowers, and those dominant "dark" genes seemed to be overtaking the look of my patch!). So I have gotten seeds for that purpose: Park's Gold Sun Hybrid and Park's Pick Yellow, and Zowie.

Then I also got the Whirligigs, Scabious Mix, Cactus Types (Park's Bright Jewels, Jung's Burpee's Hybrids, HPSSeeds Cactus Mix), Ruffled types (Burpeana Giants, Park's Ruffles Mix, Jung's Ruffles Hybrid)and various taller zinnias--Stoke's Royal Purple, Park's Cutting Blend, Park's Picks Mix, Burpee's Big Tetra Mix, Gurney's State Fair, Gurney's Mixed Dahlia, Park's Sunshine Mix, Gurney's California Giant Mix, Jung's Oklahoma Mix, and Park's Uproar Rose--thanks, franeli, very pretty!! . I got some of the shorter zinnias because I would like to try to cross them back with the larger ones--these will go into separate areas--Burpee Pinwheels, Select Seeds' Chippendale, Classic, Red Spider and White Star zinnias, Park's Cherry and Ivory Swizzle, Park's Aztec Sunset, and HPSSeeds Profusion Mix. Over the past seven years, I have been allowing a lot of cross-breeding to occur with no plan in mind..That will continue, but there will be planned crosses, too.

I had some nice Whirligigs or Whirligig descendents that were like large daisies with a 1" white interior and a 1" outer yellow border. Unfortunately,I never got a photo, or separated out seeds, but I have had several plants like this several years running, and I would like to get this color scheme into larger flowers with more petals.

I got some very bright smaller Whirligig-Zowie crosses (I think)whose colors I would like to carry over into larger flowers.

Then, probably, like everyone else, I think it would be neat to get a blue, or close-to-blue zinnia..let's give it a try..:-).

MM, I love your "marigold" type zinnias in pastel colors--I would like to try to get something similar!

None of the above will be easy, maybe impossible, but the challenge is fun, and the surprises you get along the way are the sorts of things that a gardener looks forward to......


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

With 7 years of bee-crossing in your rich variety of zinnia varieties, you probably have a very rich, deep zinnia gene pool, with the potential for selecting out some great new strains or cultivars. The yellow-white bicolors sound like they would be well worth tagging and saving seed from separately.

I thought I had a lot of zinnia seeds, but you have got me beat by a country mile. But that's a good thing. The more seed sources you use, the better chance you have for finding something new and unique. I have discovered that each field of seeds produces a different mix, even if the name of the variety is the same from one field to another.

Your idea of getting more yellows to improve their representation in your gene pool is a good idea. Your yellow sources are good. I hope to select a few good yellows out of some of the mixtures that I grow a lot of for my spider flowered project. So a good yellow spider flowered zinnia will be something I am looking specifically for. I did have a good golden yellow this year that I used pollen from. My only canary yellow zinnia had an ordinary cactus flower form and the blooms weren't as large as I prefer, so I didn't use it as a breeder. But, as you have already noticed, yellow and white are zinnia colors that need special attention.

"Then, probably, like everyone else, I think it would be neat to get a blue, or close-to-blue zinnia..let's give it a try..:-)."

Once in Fort Worth I got a light powder blue that was stable in partial shade. Unfortunately a dog destroyed that plant before I could save any seeds from it. It had some green "Envy" blood in its heritage. This year I put heavy tomato cages made from concrete re-mesh wire around my more critical breeders as protection from just such mishaps, and there was some damage from some unknown animals (dogs, deer?) that ran through my zinnia patch at night. This is a picture of my "closest to blue" zinnia this year. The colors are un-retouched, and the picture is a bit underexposed because it was taken on a cloudy day. It was one of my echinacea flowered specimens. Since none of the many wild zinnia species has a blue, I think blue will be very difficult to achieve. But I always watch for it, just in case.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

Wow! You are getting close!! If you cover the ruffles in the middle, it almost looks like a chicory flower. I guess you harvested the seeds. It will be really interesting to see what you get in the next generation from that plant! Did you try and self-cross it? Or choose other parents?

I read in the article by Stimart and Boyle that many zinnias can not be self-fertilized, with exceptions. That really surprised me, given all the seeds that I harvest every year from the better and more interesting of my plants--that is, it's hard to believe most of the seeds may come from crosses between different plants. Anyway, because of the exceptions, that won't stop me from at least trying to self some of my plants in the future.

Anyway, that close-to-blue flower is nice!

JG


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM and jackier,

Park Seed has all their zinnia seeds on sale, 35% or more off.

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Karen,

Thanks for the heads up. I guess they must be clearing out their 2007 seed to make way for the 2008 seed. A lot of year-old seed is perfectly good, including zinnia seed, which remains good for years if stored under decent conditions. So maybe I will pick up some bargain 2007 seed.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Thanks Karen! I don't know if I should give in to further temptation...but, well, I AM tempted...


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Well, I just ordered several more packages -- I can never resist bargain seeds. Sheesh!

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

"I read in the article by Stimart and Boyle that many zinnias cannot be self-fertilized, with exceptions. That really surprised me..."

Me too. I think they should have worded that more carefully. Some zinnias don't produce pollen at all and, for that reason, they must depend on pollen from other sources. Two of my marigold flowered specimens were like that, and pictures of their flowers appear above. Notice the complete absence of pollen. Eventually, after several dozen blooms had appeared with no pollen production at all (during which time I was busy pollinating them with various likely "upgrades"), some side branches appeared with flowers (dare I call them capitula? Nahh) that had some pollen production.

There may be some freaky zinnias that won't respond to their own pollen, but I haven't encountered any, and I have relied on manual selfing to increase the seed yields of desirable specimens for quite some time.

Incidentally, Stimart and Boyle contradict their own statements about self incompatibility. On page 342 they say

"Most Zinnia species are obligate outbreeders. Self-incompatibility (SI) is prevalent in the genus and has been documented in at least 10 species: ...and Z. violacea (Boyle and Stimart, 1986...)"

But, then on the very next page (343) they say,

"Zinnias are easy to cross-pollinate. Disc florets need to be removed with a pair of broad-tipped forceps to prevent selfing unless the female parent is either fully double or a femina type (see section 6.1). Pollen is then applied to pistillate ray florets on the emasculated parent. Forceps are used to remove disc florets from the paternal parent and pollinate the stigmas of the pistillate ray florets."

Think about it. If the zinnia really was self incompatible, you wouldn't have to be doing all that removal of the disc florets to prevent selfing.

Gotta go check out the Park's zinnia seed sale.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Hi all,

Well, I ordered 16 packets of Park's Scabious zinnia seed, among a few other zinnia packets. Saved some money, and that will be a hedge against Park's discontinuing that variety for 2008. I want to get some "new blood" into my Scabiosa flowered zinnias and I usually have to raise twenty or thirty plants from the seed packets in order to find one or two breeder quality specimens.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

And the savings helps defray the shipping costs, too. I got more of the scabiosa ones and another packet of Envy, plus several I didn't already have.

I'm making additional beds for next Spring. Have you ever used pine needles for mulch? I found a free source for these. Do you think that by Spring they will have broken down enough that I won't have to worry about the acid-factor in the new beds if I use them for mulch over the winter to condition the soil?

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

I bought some Envy zinnia seeds from Park. I started two packs of seeds several years ago in my patch, and never saw any flowers like them in the summers since that year--don't know if they are recessive for flower appearance or they just didn't cross... But it was good to get a bargain!
And I'll see what happens this year..


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Karen,

I still use pine needles for mulch around strawberries, but only for that. A few years ago I had a mulch of pine needles and wood chips under some eggplants and peppers and the earwigs used that as a base of operations to become a real pest. The acidity factor didn't seem to be a problem. But I have discontinued the practice of mulching, because we get quite a bit of rainfall and heat isn't a problem either. I do till in organic matter on a yearly basis as it becomes available.

If you have a free source of pine needles, go for it. At the very minimum you could use the pine needles in your garden paths until they break down enough for incorporation in your soil. Our pine needles come from our own pine trees, of which we have several. But that's not an excessive supply of pine needles for us. I do like pine needles.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

Thanks. I need to mulch more next year than I did this year. We are in the fourth year of a drought and had a full month of 100+ temps. The absolutely only plant that was happy with this were the zinnias.

For the rest of it, though, I need to mulch even if it means I may be inviting in the bad bugs. I will get the pine needles since they are free. Free is good.

Karen


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

I plan to do a lot with greens next year. In fact, I plan to go "whole hog" on green zinnias, planting Envy, Burpee's Tequila Lime, and Benary's Giant Lime. The greens aren't completely dominate in crosses, but they can modify the color and texture of the color, so they shouldn't just "disappear" in crossing with other colors, particularly so in F2s where recessive factors have the opportunity to reemerge in different ways.

Just to make sure your greens participate, try doing some hand pollinating using their pollen and also hand pollinate some other colors onto the stigmas of selected green females. To facilitate your hand pollination, get some good tweezers or forceps, to make it easy to use the pollen florets as brushes to apply pollen to the stigmas that you target.

I used to use Twissors (tweezers with scissor handles as opposed to the small scissors with tweezer handles that sometimes go by the same name), but now I use a 5" pair of curved tip mosquito forceps. You can get scissor-handled tweezers by other names in many drug stores in the cosmetics area. Unlike tweezers, forceps can "lock", preventing you from inadvertently dropping the pollen floret. Forceps are also longer and more maneuverable than tweezers, and they can feel better on your fingers. Even the inexpensive ones are usually made of smoothly polished stainless steel.

There is a very large selection of forceps available (Amazon is a good place to shop for them online), and some that are intended for surgeons are very expensive (over $100), but there are some good "floor grade" forceps in the $10 to $30 range. I think this is where I purchased the 5" curved tip forceps that I currently use. Maybe I will purchase a better pair for next year, but they don't have to be fancy, just feel good in my hand and manipulate the pollen florets well. I tried a pair with straight tips and I didn't like them as well. They partially blocked my view of the pollen floret. Maybe I should try some with even more extremely curved tips. Shopping for forceps on Amazon can provide many pages of possibilities.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

"You are getting close!! If you cover the ruffles in the middle, it almost looks like a chicory flower. I guess you harvested the seeds. It will be really interesting to see what you get in the next generation from that plant!"

In the excitement of the zinnia seed sale, I forgot to respond to part of your message. I did indeed save quite a few seeds from that lavender-blue echinacea flowered F1. Like all of the echinacea flowered series, it had a scabiosa flowered female parent and a "selected" large flowered Burpee Hybrid or Burpeeana Giant male parent. I planted a few of the seeds for my second generation Fall crop and the F2s varied all over the place.

When the parents of an F1 cross are widely different, as was the case with all of my scabiosa flowered crosses except for my scabi-X-scabi scabiosa hybrids, the F2 children vary wildly and display combinations of factors that neither the selfed parent nor the grandparents had. It's an interesting complex phenomenon explainable by Probability Theory applied to genetics. Suffice it to say, it happens.

The F2s are interesting new specimens, but they rarely have the "right" combination of genes, so they are for the most part disappointing and candidates for the compost pile. The F2 posted on Sun, Sep 30, 07 at 23:18 was actually one of the children of the blue-lavender echinacea flowered F1, and the remaining half dozen or so specimens were various odd little pastel flowered daisy-like specimens. All of them went to the compost pile.

Hopefully next year I will be able to plant a whole bed of F2s from that blue-lavender F1 specimen, and maybe I will get something useful out of a much larger sample. However, I think the chances of getting a pure sky blue are pretty near zero, even if I planted a million of them.

"Did you try and self-cross it? Or choose other parents?"

I did both. I crossed its guard petals with other echinacea flowered specimens and selected "upgrades" and allowed most of its disk florets to self-fertilize naturally.

The disk florets of scabiosa-derived specimens are interesting intermediates between regular zinnia petals and the furry-yellow pollen florets of conventional zinnias. They are at least partially hermaphroditic, and some of them produce pollen and their style acts as a modified stigma which receives it, producing a selfed seed just as the regular yellow pollen florets of standard zinnias frequently produce a selfed seed.

Others of them have vestigial infertile pollen and extend a rather identifiable stigma which can be pollinated like the stigma of a conventional ray floret petal. There are intermediate forms that can apparently function either way, and I frequently use my mosquito forceps to tear the floret enough to expose a style-stigma for cross pollination. I have performed that procedure on some pure-bred scabiosa flowered specimens as well, to cross pollinate more than just the guard petals.

I am still learning about these intermediate floret-petals. The marigold flowered variants have many more open-shaped toothy disk florets with readily accessible near-conventional stigmas, but the florets toward the center of the flower transition toward a more tubular form. I think you can see that in both the Sun, Sep 30, 07 at 22:28 picture and the Sun, Sep 30, 07 at 22:39 picture.

This zinnia breeding hobby continues to be a learning experience for me.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

Thanks so much for sharing all of your experience in breeding your zinnias. I have never tried crossing composite flowers, but it looks like it will take a great deal of care and patience. I've used a paintbrush on flowers where the parts were larger, but it looks like using forceps with the disc flowers for fertilization is really a good choice for zinnias. And you have to catch that pollen quickly while it is still viable.

Now that I'll have the Envy seeds, I'm anxious to see what comes from crossing them with other kinds of zinnia.

With respect to your near-blue zinnia, it apparently had just the right combination of alleles to get that color.
I would be tempted to hang onto the F2 generation where it was selfed, even though they are not the greatest, because even if you had segregation and recombination of alleles, the alleles are still there (most likely) among those offspring, and maybe some persistance and selfing through the F3 and F4 might be worth it. You might get some ugly flowers, but they might be blue :-)....Then you can work from there (?)..to get some true-breeding plants. Then again, those blues might be strictly hybrid and 100% similar offspring might be impossible. I guess I should stop there..but it's an interesting problem.


From the article mentioned earlier, I was interested to read about the "femina" flowers. Every year, I get several plants with those flowers, and I've always considered the flowers with no petals as mutants. I didn't realize they were triple recessive females commonly used for breeding. I've got a lot to learn, too..


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

"And you have to catch that pollen quickly while it is still viable."

The use of "hair nets" to keep the bees away from the pollen florets takes most of the pressure off of that. The pollen that became available in the morning remains usable into the afternoon. Without the hair nets, the bees get the pollen in mid-morning unless you beat them to it, and that can require you to get into the garden fairly early and work fast as soon as the pollen florets start to open.

The nets have made cross pollination a much more leisurely and effective activity for me. I make my protective nets out of an open nylon mesh fabric and I use some yarn and a knitting needle (and a threader) to join it. The mesh and yarn are both black to make them less conspicuous in the garden.

I tried more elaborate pyramidal designs, but my present design is a simple sack or envelope open on one side, and approximately 8 or 9 inches square, with some smaller 6 inch nets for smaller blooms like the scabiosa flowered zinnias. I can make several of the simple-design nets in an hour.

Don't pull the net all the way down on the flower, but leave a little room at the top to keep the bees from "cheating" through the net. I have seen some butterflies drinking nectar through the holes in the net, but I don't mind because they don't grab the pollen like the bees do.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM

I am definitely starting to get ready for my summer flower garden! The "hair nets" will be something to work on for now--black for the color is a good suggestion. I will probably start some seeds under lights in March-April, but, really, not too many, because with the number of seeds I have and to try and have the plants blooming all roughly the same time, I will sow the vast majority in May. I guess the major task will be in the planning of where besides my 40' x 50' patch the seeds will go. Besides the seeds I bought, I have my ongoing collection, which fills a one gallon container! I don't have the heart to put selected plants on the compost pile during the summer, but I know it is probably a good idea..

Also, gathering more literature is another goal..This looks interesting: "Micropropagation of Zinnia, " M.A.L. Smith, in "Biotechnmology in Agriculture and Forestry," Volume 40,
"High Tech and Micropropagation, " Volume VI, 1997.

JG


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

I am very impressed with the competence of your literature searches, regarding your citation of the "Micropropagation of Zinnia" chapter. I had read that material only recently via Amazon's Search inside feature. I can't afford $429.25 to buy that volume new or even $331.18 in the new and used category, but I did read and screen capture every page of that particular chapter, including the References listing. That material is very relevant to what I intend to do with respect to exceptional zinnia specimens that I want to save a lot and lot of seeds from.

Quoting from page 307 of the article, "While all large scale commercial propagation is almost exclusively done by seed propagation, vegetative multiplication of selected parents is desired for hybrid breeding. Vegetative propagation in particular would alleviate heavy breeder reliance on roguing to maintain pure lines. Zinnia does not respond well to cutting propagation, primarily because of poor rooting response and extreme susceptibility to propagation disease. This limitation to bulk-up of valuable breeding germplasm is alleviated through in vitro propagation, since microplants root readily and are safeguarded from fungal or bacterial pathogens during multiplication."

They are right about it being difficult to grow zinnias from cuttings, but I have recently been fairly successful at it, with the critical addition of sterilization of both the explant, growing medium, pots, trays, and humidity domes with Physan 20. Until I started using Physan 20, bacterial rot killed most of my cuttings in the first day or two.

None of the propagation books (that I have seen) mention growing zinnias from cuttings, because almost everybody is quite happy to grow them from seeds, and probably because of the high failure rate caused by bacterial rot and/or fungus diseases. But, with the aid of Physan 20 sterilization, I had over a 90% success rate rooting cuttings with several rooting hormones, including RooTone (NAA), Hormex No.1, No.3, and No. 8 (IBA), and Dip 'n Grow liquid (NAA + IBA). I am now close to attempting to root a zinnia cutting from a zinnia cutting, which will be the start of an extended cycle of asexual vegetative propagation of zinnias.

But the vastly higher multiplication ratio of micropropagation techniques makes it very attractive to me to develop that capability. For the time being, I will use the conventional cuttings technique with sterilization. But, for next year, I will definitely be looking into micropropagation and even tissue culture. I will probably start with something from Kitchen Culture Kits, Inc. and I will use the product called PPM to reduce the requirement for special clean room equipment. As Stimart and Boyle noted, tissue culture can also be a source of mutations as an aid in plant breeding.

I don't like to even think about it, but vegetative reproduction could make zinnias eligible for Plant Patents (ugh!).

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

I am going to try and get the reference on micropropagation through the library---I took a look as you did,(thanks for your the hint on how!) and I was surprised to see that it was a relatively simple procedure..

I have had some experience in micropropagation, but only with one kind of plant and as a tool to study molecular biology, and I know that media can be very much different from plant to plant, particularly with the ratio and/or amounts of plant hormones to use. Contamination can also be a major problem! Once you have a plant you really want to preserve, it would be good to clone as many copies of it as possible through micropropagation. At present, I am interested in the somaclonal variation that may happen as a result of micropropagation, so that's what I'd like to try first. I will surface-sterilize some of the new seeds I just got, and germinate them in a sterile environment, then use those as a source of cuttings. Then, I'll just see if I can start some plants from those. With zinnia, I am brand new, so I think there will probably be some false starts, but it will be fun.

I was fortunate to attend a Society for In Vitro Biology workshop this past summer and the professionals there had many good things to say about the Kitchen Culture Kits that are available and Dr. Stiff who has developed them, and who is said to be a great source of advice.

It seems like you have already done a tremendous amount of work with your plants. You really ought to consider writing a book based on all of your experiences and success!

JG


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I would need several more years of experience and many new successes before I felt qualified to write a book. For the time being, sharing my experiences here in the forums will keep me engaged and stimulated.

I am delighted that you have had some experience in micropropagation. I will be very interested in your experience with the micropropagation of zinnias. It may turn out that somaclonal variation is a valuable tool in obtaining entirely new forms of zinnias. I would love to make crosses between various somaclonal variants. That would really spice up the zinnia breeding hobby. Keep us posted on the protocols you use and how well they work.

Dr. Carol Stiff is very active on the Home Tissue Culture group (the one linked in the upper left-hand corner of that grouping.) The group is reasonably active, with international participation, and a lot of good give and take of information takes place there. If you aren't already a member of that group, you might want to consider joining. I would link directly to it from here, but iVillage has a policy prohibiting that.

I haven't seen any information on zinnia protocols there, but that would be a good place to inquire about them and to share what you might learn about them. My participation there is just as an occasional curious "lurker". I have a Yahoo email address that I use exclusively for saving emails into from that Group List Serve.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

I'll try and join the group you mentioned and then, I will ask if anyone has actively worked with zinnias. There is no point in reinventing the wheel in micropropagation--it often involves a great deal of work to get optimal conditions,...and as we see, it seems there is relatively little out there with respect to zinnias. I found the protocol in the biotech reference surprisingly simple! What happens with that may be something once again...

The micropropagation will be kind of a side-interest ...I still believe the major effort for me will be in my beginning efforts at breeding in the garden.

I'll let everyone know how this very first micro-attempt goes...I would guess with the conditions I have, maybe by mid-December, I will be able to start initial cloning from one plant. I'm hoping that if I keep everything sterile from day 1 (sterile seed in sterile container), I will be able to avoid contamination. It will be far less challenging than subculturing material that has been out in the garden. I am a science instructor, and no doubt in time I will share the micropropagation project with my students..... if initial steps work!

JG


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

JG,

If you communicate with Dr. Carol Stiff, either by email or on the Kitchen Culture Kits website or on the Home Tissue Culture group, if you ask she can have them send you a free sample of the PPM product, which might be of use in keeping your micropropagation sterile. She had them send me a sample of PPM, which I haven't used yet.

When I start doing micropropagation, I will experiment with PPM and also experiment to see if Physan 20 acts as a substitute for PPM. Physan 20 costs a lot less than PPM.

MM


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Conventional breeding methods

JG,

"The micropropagation will be kind of a side-interest ...I still believe the major effort for me will be in my beginning efforts at breeding in the garden."

Me too. Conventional breeding methods will remain my mainstay. Although, with my cuttings now growing under overdriven fluorescent fixtures, I am still growing some zinnia specimens that I first germinated nearly eight months ago. Despite our killing frost and current winter-like weather, it's encouraging to know that my zinnia breeding season hasn't ended yet and, with a little luck, might not end.

Once I get my greenhouse up and operational, I might be able to get four generations of zinnias per year here in Maine. That's what I'm shooting for.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

MM,

Your greenhouse will definitely help in extending the time you have for working with your plants! I have thought of possibly setting one up when I retire, but right now I am short on time to do too many extra things in the fall and winter.

When I attended the SIVB workshop, some of us were given the "In Vitro Collecting Kit" put together for students by the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo . In that was included PPM, and some other items like samples of medium, and MS with macro and micronutrients, vitamins and glycine. That is the first time I had ever seen PPM. I may possibly try it later during my small experimentation.

JG


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A few more scabiosa flowered hybrid pics

This pink is an F1 hybrid between a Parks Pastel "Scabious" and a Burpeeana Giant.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

This odd specimen had both scabious florets and conventional florets. Other flowers on the same plant had all scabious florets, so I saved seeds from this plant.


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Another scabiosa flowered hybrid

This F1 hybrid also had a female scabiosa flowered parent.


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A light pastel colored F1 hybrid

This one had a kind of heavy creamy texture to the color that didn't show up well in the photo. Incidentally, this group of pics are actually blow-ups from video frame grabs, so the image quality suffers from that. Next year I hope to have a digital SLR of my own to get some better quality pictures.


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Another marigold flowered zinnia

This is another of the marigold flowered series, each of which has scabiosa flowered parentage.


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A mix of florets

This one is showing some conventional florets in addition to the scabiosa florets.


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A yellow marigold flowered specimen


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A nice red flowered scabiosa hybrid


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Yet another variation of pink


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A near-white marigold flowered zinnia


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A red marigold flowered specimen

The advantage of marigold flowered zinnias over regular marigolds is that the zinnias can have a much wider range of colors.

That's all of my scabiosa flowered hybrid pictures for the time being. My pictures in this message thread were taken either with my wife's point-and-shoot camera (which doesn't have a viewfinder and I don't really know how to use for close-ups) or were taken from my video footage. Next year I hope to get my own digital camera and take better pictures. And, hey, I hope to have some better zinnias, too.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Those are all really nice! That last one is especially beautiful both in form and color!! I know everyone reading this thread has got to think the same....


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Suggestion: start a part-2 thread on zinnia breeding. This one is getting long and slower to load. In spite of being captures, the last photos are quite interesting & easy to see the types.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

Paveggie,

Good idea. This thread is pretty loaded up with both images and text. GardenWeb used to have a 100-message limit, which I guess has been increased. See you over in Part 2.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

In response to paveggie's suggestion, this thread is continued over in It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 2. See you there.

MM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

I also am trying to breed a 6 inch creamy white colored zinnia that had dark pink edges that intensify in color as it ages.

Here is a link that might be useful: my zinnia


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias

reslider,

Your link doesn't work for me. I always test links in this forum's "Preview Message" before doing a "Submit Message". It would be better if we continued this dialog over in the current part of this message thread, because this part has become long and slow to load.

You can "wade through" this message thread by going to the Part 2 link that I gave above, and then continue following the links until you get to the bottom of Part 5, or you can now just skip to It can be fun to bred your own zinnias - Part 5.

But, reslider, please let's not continue here. This part is too old and too long. See you over in Part 5. Just click on the underlined Part 5 link I gave above. And, if you have the patience, just read Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4, but please don't post messages in them. Post your next message in Part 5. Incidentally, we probably will be opening up a Part 6 in a day or two, because Part 5 is also getting long and unwieldy.

MM


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