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It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Posted by zenman Kansas 5b (My Page) on
Fri, Dec 13, 13 at 1:22

Hello, everyone,


Welcome to this ongoing message thread. Once again, the previous part of this continuing series, It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 22, has become rather long and slow to load or read, so we are continuing the series here for yet another fresh start.

The same guidelines apply here. Anything remotely related to zinnias is fine. I know that during the Winter months there isn't much zinnia activity, but there is always planning and strategizing. And if you have any related pictures, you are invited to post them.

As I indicated in a previous message, I planted a new generation of zinnias indoors this Fall, rather than bring in cuttings. This picture was taken yesterday of some of my indoor zinnias.

I enjoy growing zinnias indoors because that extends my enjoyment of them into the Winter months. But this year I have an additional purpose for my indoor growing. I want to get a head start on recombining genes from the star petaled mutant with genes from my tubular petaled mutants.

The crosses I made this summer between those two mutants are F1 crosses, and F1 crosses do not exhibit the full range of possible genetic combinations. It is not until the F2 generation and beyond that recombinations of recessive genes can appear. So I hope to produce a decent supply of F2 seeds this Winter so that I can make a big grow-out of them next Spring. It is not until the F2 generation that the most interesting surprises can occur.

I have been cross pollinating some of my F1 specimens to get even more possible variety in the F2 seeds. This is a specimen that is definitely an F1 cross between a tubular petaled specimen and the star petaled mutant.

That picture was also taken yesterday. It shows some of the characteristics of the tubular female parent and the star-petaled male parent. I am selfing it and crossing it with other tubular x star F1 hybrids.

I very much enjoy cross pollinating zinnias in the comfort of the indoors while the weather outside is "frightful". I'll keep you posted on my progress. Your questions and comments are most welcome.

ZM


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi ZM. Previously you asked if I kept that zinnia alive, and yes, it's still going. I'm intentionally stunting the growth - doing a very fine job, I guess.

It needs some more pruning soon, hopefully the cotyledons will hold up until another pair of leaves come in. I have so many plants indoors right now that I don't have much room to keep a mature zinnia, so I'm just keeping this zinnia small. It's well over a month old now.

Those are some nice indoor pictures you've posted. Reminds me of my outdoor garden most years. How are you watering them?

This post was edited by Telescody on Fri, Dec 20, 13 at 21:07


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Happy Holidays, zinnia lovers! I'm just popping in to encourage everyone to plant as many zinnias as they can next summer and every year after that. Our environment is sorely lacking in nectar sources for valuable insects and other pollinators. Zinnias are easy for anyone to grow and provide excellent nectar, especially the single/daisy type blooms. They are not invasive, to my knowledge, and seeds can be saved for replanting in subsequent years.

Anyone interested in learning more about supporting native pollinators, who provide us with 80% of our food! is encouraged to visit the butterfly forum, or do a separate search for pollinator declines. The situation is becoming dire around the world, and particularly in our Midwest.

Martha


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

I grabbed all the dead heads from my favorite zinnias after our killing frost and went ahead and germ tested some of the seeds. Pretty low results, but the first and biggest seedling to go has popped out her first bud. I've been gently low stress training to encourage side budding, to get as many possible seeds off my indoor zinnias over the winter. I just dumped all the heads in a paper bag and tried to pick out some potentially viable seed. I can't wait to find out what this flower looks like!

This post was edited by Mister.Guy on Fri, Dec 27, 13 at 23:00


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Mister Guy,
Had you been dead-heading your spent blooms before the frost came? I was just wondering what would explain the low germination rate. If most of your blooms were fresh, they might not have been pollinated, or may not have had time for the embryo to develop. It may also be an overall decrease in the number of pollinating insects we have working for us. Where is your garden? I mean, in what sort of surroundings do your zinnias grow? I've been collecting seed for a few years and I've had excellent germination rates, so far. Hopefully, this year will be the same.

Will you post a picture of your flower when it blooms?

Martha


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

This was the first year I tried zinnias, entirely because of the pictures in this thread series. I had them randomly scattered all over from various seed packets, planted somewhat randomly all summer. I more or less bought new packets and planted them as I made new beds and older ones succumbed to disease. I cut back the ones I didn't like as much in the hopes that the ones I liked more would be more prevalent next year. I had collected some of the best blossoms after they dried, so this is basically a grab bag of everything that was left at that point. Next year, the zinnias will be in planned out beds with nutrients and everything :-) My garden got the best of my impulse control this year, to the delight of the local gardening center. I am so impatient with this little plant. The main bud is starting to open, so I should know soon. It's got another six buds from two to three days behind the main bud.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

I was stalling around hoping one of the secondary buds would open up, because there's quite a few of them, but I don't want the main flower to fade too much before I shared it.

I have another little cluster starting their bloom as well, and it looks like I'll have some at least double rows from them:

The funky colors comes from the HPS over the tomatoes. The second cluster grew a little under the HPS, but now they are all under the T5/CFL combo because of the color cast making them less satisfying for me, and because I want them to prefer bushing over height. I don't have a strong enough HPS to keep them as short as the CFL/T5 combo can.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

I like the shapes and colors you've gotten so far. I like the "daisy" shape with prominent pollen-producing parts for the bees and butterflies to land on. Thanks for taking time to post pictures.

Martha


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Telescody,

" Those are some nice indoor pictures you've posted. Reminds me of my outdoor garden most years. How are you watering them? "

Since my pots are in Perma-Nest trays, which are about 2 inches deep, the easiest way to water them is to flood the trays and let the water "wick" its way up into the growing medium. That is the lazy way, but it is efficient because it lets you water a whole tray at once.

Sometimes I like to water from the top, and I have a one-gallon pump-up sprayer with the spray nozzle removed that I use, and its wand lets me reach back to top-water pots that would otherwise be hard to reach.

It is freakin' cold here today. Today's high is predicted to be 6 degrees, and that is Fahrenheit. I am glad I am indoors doing my zinnia gardening, which I enjoy.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Amazing you all have flowers? When its freezing everywhere!

Hello Docmom, I'm going to WS a lot of milkweed this season.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Lady rose,
Thanks for the update. I hope everyone is planning to plant lots of milkweed and other nectar and host plants for all our pollinators.

Martha


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Martha,

We have a fair wild population of milkweed in the unused field north of my garden, but I have never seen any Monarch Butterfly caterpillars (or any kind of caterpillars) feeding on it. It is the kind of milkweed that makes silky parachutes for its windborne seeds, and it is doing a fairly good job of re-seeding itself. But I saw a picture of Milkweed for Monarchs on a TV show, and it had completely different looking flowers.

There were noticeably fewer Monarchs on my zinnias last year, and fewer other butterflies as well. Less bumblebees and honeybees too. But the Skippers were quite numerous. It may have had something to do with the weather. Or what the local farmers were doing. We are in a rural area.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

ZM
The decrease in Monarchs this year is far more concerning than a shift in the weather. The miraculous migration of Monarch butterflies is in grave danger of ceasing completely. The number of Monarchs that returned to their normal overwintering site is almost negligible. Fall of 2012, there were 60% fewer butterflies than the previous year, and fewer than ever had been recorded. The estimated number that year was about 60 million. This fall, approximately 3 million returned. There are several factors contributing, but a huge part of it is loss of milkweed species that used to grow in the fields along side agricultural crops. Those plants have been wiped out due to genetically modified crops that are resistant to the herbicide in Ro#ndUp, allowing almost universal spraying of over 85% of all fields with that broad spectrum weed killer. Without milkweed for the caterpillars, Monarchs are unable to produce new generations. This has also wiped out much of the diverse plant life that supports other insect and bird populations. Birds cannot raise their young without insects to feed them. It's really quite frightening.
So, I'm encouraging everyone who can to add native plants to their gardens. We can only preserve the insects that provide pollination for much of our food by growing the plants those insects need to survive.

Martha


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Martha,

This is a picture of the blooming milkweed that apparently didn't attract any interest from Monarchs last year.

I haven't determined what species of Milkweed it is, but I might be able to do that. Do you have a list of Milkweed species that are supposed to be good for Monarchs?

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

If you visit Monarch Watch, they have a list of many of the varieties of milkweed that grow in different regions of the country. The native milkweeds are all important for monarch survival. Common Milkweed, or Asclepias syriaca, is the most widespread and most heavily used throughout the Midwest. It spreads by runners, so tends to be overly aggressive for traditional gardens, but it tolerates tilling, so is found in crop lands that aren't sprayed with herbicides. If you'd like seeds for common milkweed, I can supply more than you could possibly need. LOL. I collected seed to donate to Monarch Watch, but they already had enough from Michigan, so I still have it.

Martha


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

What kind of environment does milkweed need? I live along the sound wall of the highway. Behind it is just the strip of grasses and weeds that have sprung up. I'd be happy to till a patch and introduce some milkweed if it can handle the shade.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

There are different varieties that are more and less shade or drought tolerant. I would try Poke Milkweed for a shady area. Does it get some sun? I would recommend including some nectar sources, as well, such as zinnias, asters, penstemon, or White Snakeroot (for shade).

Martha


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

I'm not sure how much sun it gets any more, due to over growth from trees. Enough to support large grassy type weeds, if that helps. I'll have to wait for the trees to fill in to really judge.

Back to the topic, here's my "first" indoor second generation zinnia, more mature now. It's started pitching out a second round of petals in the middle. It's not necessarily the greatest effect, but it's not bad. It just has a messy look to it. Is that because of the dose of blooming fertilizer I gave it?

This is a plant I had low stress trained once it had a few leaves to encourage side blooming. Zenman had made some offhand comment about not liking to pinch back or something along those lines, so I wanted to see how zinnias responded to low stress techniques. I thought they'd do well, since I had seen them recover fairly well from flopping over in my yard. This particular example clearly would rather be a much taller plant, but I've turned it into a fairly decent size bush:

Finally, the tray of "preferred" seeds from my favorite zinnias last year. Now that I'm sure zinnias like my lighting setup, I got the mass planting going to start separating my favorites (for my yard) from the others (my mom's yard):


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Mister.Guy,

You are doing remarkably well for someone who is growing zinnias indoors for the first time. I am impressed.

"It just has a messy look to it. Is that because of the dose of blooming fertilizer I gave it? "

Yes, very likely the blooming fertilizer contained a good supply of phosphorous, and blooming makes high demands on phosphorous, so that could very well explain the "second wind" effect on that zinnia bloom.

When you start selecting for specific zinnia traits, your indoor growing expertise will stand you in good stead by letting you grow several generations of zinnias in a year. I start my zinnias in 3.25" square pots, so I have to repot to 5-inch square pots as my seedlings grow larger. This picture shows a re-potting in progress.

As you may have noticed, one of my breeding goals has to do with flower form. As composites, each petal of a zinnia bloom is botanically a "flower", in that it has the capability of producing a seed. I am trying to breed for zinnias that have petals that look more like separate flowers, and I have been growing zinnias with tubular petals because they are a step in that direction. This is a picture of one of my indoor-grown tubular-petaled specimens.

Its tubular petals are a bit wider than many of the tubular petaled forms, which makes the individual petals look a little bit like tubular flowers. One advantage of having the petals take on the role of flowers is that the bloom no longer needs to be symmetrical, and it can look like a loosely bunched grouping of petal-flowers, like this bloom from last Summer. Its bloom was approximately triangular, rather unique for a zinnia.

Another advantage of growing zinnias indoors is that it is easier to cross pollinate them. I have been doing a lot of cross pollinating of my indoor zinnias, aimed at producing more variations of the petal forms.

I don't know if you prefer the smaller flowered zinnias, but if you are open to it, I would recommend that this year you also grow some of the larger zinnias, like Burpee's Burpeanna Giants. And also grow some of the Whirligigs, for a variety of flower forms and color patterns. And try your hand at cross pollinating. It is easy, and can give you some interesting new results.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Edited to remove a duplicated post.

This post was edited by zenman on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 1:50


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

I got started indoor gardening because I was upgrading my photography lights from florescent continuous lighting to strobes. A large spare room and. lots of florescent lighting makes it much easier to look good. I am a bit of a lighting nut and science nerd, so playing with the relationship between lighting color, intensity, and plant behavior has been a ton of fun. I really struggle with patience (thank God for our NC megagrowing season) and having a rack of plants to play with is therapeutic. I recently got talked into a little HPS light and it's interesting how differently plants react to an intense reddish hot spot source compared to long cool daylight tuned tubes. I am thinking that the ultimate in indoor growing for bushy flowers is vertically lined tubes lining a rack topped with hps, but I don't yet have metal halide to compare.

Anyway, wrong forum for that talk. Right now, I am working out the schedule for my two projects: My Tomatoes and My Zinnias. I am counting things like how long bulbs take to open, and days to deadhead after hand pollination. Not knowing how long I will have to wait kills me...

I was kinda goalless with zinnias other than seeing what I get, until I recently read the reason I can't find blue zinnias is because they are not there. I am wondering if inbreeding dark purples and whites may result in lavenders and the tiny chance to mutate up a bluish hue. Do you have any idea if there's a biological reason for the lack of blue, or what the closest to blue might be?


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi MG,

Technology wise, I think you are significantly ahead of me on indoor zinnia growing. Just be on the lookout for an outbreak of insect enemies, like aphids, thrips, or spider mites. A couple of weeks ago I nipped a thrips outbreak in the bud with imidacloprid and acephate. Spider mites are like the Borg, I have never defeated them yet, and they have wiped me out twice. However, I will fight them with a combination of Acephate and Kontos the next time I see signs of them. You usually get them by bringing zinnias indoors from outdoors. They have natural enemies that usually keep them in check outdoors. The same goes for thrips and aphids.

The blue zinnia thing is probably the most obvious challenge in zinnia breeding. Back in the 60s or 70s a seed company made a concerted effort to breed blue zinnias by growing lots of lavender zinnias and selecting for bluish shades. Eventually they gave up and/or went bankrupt and offered their remaining seed stock for sale. Presumably none of it was true blue, but was "nearest to blue".

I have no doubt that there will eventually be blue zinnias in the marketplace, but I don't know just how that will occur. It may be that, like blue roses, the goal will be so difficult that genetic engineering must be used. I have had several zinnia blooms that were light sky blue in the shade, but as soon as the sun got to them, they turned a bluish lavender. Since sky blue is close to cyan, a combination of true RGB blue with some green, it might be a good idea to include some green zinnias in cross pollinations aimed at blue.

" Do you have any idea if there's a biological reason for the lack of blue, or what the closest to blue might be?"

The natural pollinators of zinnias (bees, and such) don't seem to be attracted to blue flowers. Insects see in a different spectrum than we do. It may be that in prehistoric times, there were prehistoric zinnias that were blue because they had different pollinators. The codes for blue chemistry may be lost in code fragments in zinnia DNA, and it is possible that some of those fragments might accidentally recombine to recover those codes. I'm not ruling out the possibility of blue zinnias by "natural" means, but I think that it is just a matter of time until genetic engineers turn their attention to zinnias, as well as many other ornamentals that so far haven't received their attention. Then we will not only have blue zinnias, we will have glow-in-the-dark zinnias.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

I was curious if it was like a hydrangea thing, where blue might require breeding for acid tolerance and using lime (or is it aluminum, I can never remember) to turn whiter or lavenders to blue chemically, not just biologically. I will definitely try to add some greens into the mix, and just see what pops out!

I am developing a pathological hatred of white flies and spider mites. I haven't gotten them again this year, but last year I put everything outside at the end of winter. This year with the breeding I will have a reason to keep going all year. Man I hope I don't get reinvested with mites. I have a beautiful potted tomato suffering by a window in the attic because I can't it clean enough to join the others!


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

MG,

No, I am pretty sure we can't get blue zinnias by acidifying the soil with aluminum salts. You can pick white zinnias and put them in a vase with blue food coloring, which will transfuse into the white petals and give you blue zinnias in the vase. But that doesn't do you any good in the landscape.

"I am working out the schedule for my two projects: My Tomatoes and My Zinnias. I am counting things like how long buds take to open, and days to deadhead after hand pollination. Not knowing how long I will have to wait kills me... "

Zinnias put out their first bloom in about 6 weeks from germination if you don't pinch the central growing point. I have had a few bloom in as few as 5 weeks from the day I sowed the seed. A zinnia seed contains a viable embryo about 3 weeks from fertilization. Fertilization is indicated by the stigma withering. A zinnia stigma stays "open" for about a week, meaning you can have several tries to get it successfully pollinated.

Saving zinnia seeds from a deadhead in an indoor situation is a big waste of time. Using the green seed technique can speed things up by many weeks. Today I planted a flat of green seeds from a zinnia that was still in bloom and putting out more buds. I would probably have to have waited another month if I were using deadheads as my seed source. You can feel around in the lower part of the zinnia bloom to find petals that are attached to "fat" green seeds, and pull those seeds individually out of the flower head while the upper part of the flower is still maturing seeds that may not be ready for more than a week. You may also find floret green seeds that are fat with viable embryos. Floret seeds are almost always selfed, but that is OK in many cases. I planted about a dozen green floret seeds today. The green seed technique has been described in messages in previous parts of this series. You could practice saving green seeds using some of your more mature flower heads right now. The petals can still have color. The more mature seeds are at the bottom of the bloom.

"Right now, I am working out the schedule for my two projects: My Tomatoes and My Zinnias."

Systemics work great on zinnias, because you aren't going to eat them and it isn't a problem if the entire zinnia plant becomes toxic.

Tomatoes are going to be hard to protect, because the really effective things are systemic, and you definitely don't want to make your tomatoes toxic. A few years ago I had some success removing whiteflies from my tomatoes with a vacuum cleaner. You have to be careful not to let the tomato leaves themselves into the nozzle, or they will be severely bruised. That might work with mites, except now you will have your vacuum cleaner full of live mites, and that could be a problem. To kill the whiteflies in our vacuum I sprayed some flying insect aerosol in the vacuum hose while the cleaner was running. I could probably have skipped that, because they would have died naturally in a few days in the vacuum cleaner bag from desiccation.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Every time I tried your technique I killed it. I am either picking out embryo that are too young or I need some method of sterilization. The embryos I was able to retrieve had clear well defined leaf starts with white veins, with about half the embryo mass being the opaque kernel. After a few days they rot in the paper toys. I actually grabbed a petal with a wilted stigma that is known to be roughly eight days old, and that's what it looked like. I am pretty sure, based on what you just said, that I should have at least a week before I have a good shot at the first seeds. Just for kicks I stuck it on a paper towel dusted with rooting hormone which I drenched with some honey water (busting out some misapplied old wives tricks), to see if it'll even try. I will give the lowest petals another week or two and try again.

I may be willing to use something systematic on the tomatoes designated as mothers, since I am already stressing the heck out of them just to keep them in check for size. I was already thinking I would have to trust the genetics for flavor until I can plant out later generations. I could definitely forgo the fruit from the mothers to crank through a couple generations to cram in the genetics to plant out and select from in the yard. Good feelings about organics were the first thing those mites infested. I don't think I can convince my fiance it's reasonable to keep ladybugs growing with the flowers in the guest room :-)


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi MG,

I think it was mentioned in the previous detailed discussions of the green seed technique, but you really need to use a product like Physan 20 to protect the exposed embryo from bacterial attack. I wouldn't be without the stuff. Be sure to read the customer reviews at Amazon. You can also find much more information at the Physan 20 home page. Some hospitals use it in their mop water. I finally purchased the one gallon size to refill the smaller 8-ounce bottle that I bought initially. The 16-oz bottle that I linked to has a significantly lower price per ounce than the 8-oz bottle (which is also available on Amazon).

Physan 20 is phytotoxic in higher concentrations, and different plants differ in their sensitivity to it. I am currently using one tablespoon per gallon in the water that I use to start my green seed zinnias, and that seems to be working. But your mileage may vary, and it doesn't hurt to run some experiments.

I did experimental zinnia germinations in a wide variety of Physan 20 concentrations, starting at 1/4 teaspoon/gal and going up in factors of 2 to 8 tablespoons per gallon. The 8tbs/gal and 4tbs/gal solutions were very phytoxic, but the 2tbs/gal group had reasonably good seedlings, as did the 1tbs/gal and lower seedlings. I was using some bulk dry commercial zinnia seeds for the test. I have also used Physan 20 to spray the foliage of my outdoor zinnias, to help control foliage diseases, including bacterial ones. Physan 20 has many uses.

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi MG,

"I am either picking out embryo that are too young or I need some method of sterilization."

As I mentioned in the previous message, embryos do need some sterilization protection, and Physan 20 is a good way to do that. As for being too young, if it has been three weeks since fertilization, the embryos should be well developed. Sometimes two-week embryos will grow, even though they are undersized. As you can see in this picture, you can "pick" viable green seeds from blooms that still look rather fresh.

I planted over a dozen embryos today. Today I was experimenting with a slightly weaker Physan 20 solution, using 2 teaspoons of Physan 20 per gallon. I also added 1/2 teaspoon of Better-Gro Orchid Plus nutrients.

I have several zinnia seedlings already up that were planted as embryos in medium that was drenched with the 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of Physan 20 per gallon solution. I anticipate that this second generation of indoor zinnias will come into bloom sometime in March, at which time I will begin cross pollinating my third generation of indoor zinnias. Those third-gen seedlings may be pretty far along when I transplant them into the garden, because our Safe No-Frost date is sometime in May. Indoor zinnia growing can be a hassle, but it has definite advantages for someone who is trying to breed zinnias as a hobby.

ZM



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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Would you possibly show a closer picture of how formed the embryo should be? The example picture I found showing seed surgery here: shows completely opaque, while some of the ones I was trying were more like 50‰ translucent.

It's that whole patience thing. I swear you are all conspiring to make me a better person :-)


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi MG,

Today I extracted a bunch of embryos from some green seeds taken from a breeder designated as G98. This is a photo of the green seeds. They are on graph paper that is graduated in tenths of an inch.

This is a photo of the embryos extracted from those green seeds, with a row of green seeds at the bottom of the photo showing the stages in which I extract an embryo.

As I was extracting the embryos, I dropped them in a shallow container of Physan 20 solution to protect them and keep them from dehydrating, and some of them opened their cotyledons as if they were starting to germinate. This is a close-up detail of some of the embryos, which would seem to show that none of them are translucent.

I have already planted all of those embryos in 3.25-inch square pots. I will go a little bit more into my technique for extracting embryos in a subsequent message.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi again, MG,

I used a head-mounted magnifier to make it easier to make the cuts on the seeds.

The lid to a gallon water jug served as a holding container for the embryos. I used an X-Acto knife to make the cuts, and l used a small painter's knife to transport the embryos.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Thanks. I pulled some more petals last night and she loves me not. However, on a hunch I checked some of the petals on a different plant and the difference was night and day. I have a few little babies in a paper towel now. I want to see how these go and if they rot I will probably spring for that cleanser.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi MG,

I think your paper towel experiment is a great idea. Theoretically, a bacterial infection enters a plant through a wound, which could be just a break in its "skin". I think there is some chance that your paper towel seedlings may have no break in their skin, and they might do just fine, at least some of them. It is also possible that no harmful bacteria may be in the paper towel environment.

I have had several different flower forms appear in my indoor zinnias. I had one bloom that reminded me very much of a marigold.

Another bloom is somewhat different, but it also reminds me of a marigold. These pictures were taken only a few days ago.

Because they have somewhat "un-zinnia-like" blooms, I have been crossing them with specimens that have tubular and/or star-tipped petals. I have planted a few green seeds from them to see what those crosses will look like. It is probable that those crosses will also bloom out indoors in late March or early April, to facilitate further crossing and green-seed planting to produce seedlings to set out in the garden after the danger of frost is gone.

Keep us informed about those paper towel experiments.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Those are really wild. Does the inner color vary independently on that orange centered yellow flower?


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi MG,

On that bloom the petals and petaloids came in as orange and faded rather quickly to the yellowish color. A few years ago I had a zinnia that did a really spectacular job of color-change fading.

That two-color effect may have been partly environmental. It was also an indoor-grown zinnia, and it originally put out a bunch of orange petals and then, for some reason, it stopped putting out petals for a while. In a couple of weeks its original petals faded to yellowish, and then for some reason it started putting out new petals again, with the amazing result shown in that picture. I don't know whether genetics was involved, or if the two-color effect was purely environmental.

It is typical that zinnia petals go through different color changes as the petals age. Sometimes the color gets lighter, and sometimes it darkens dramatically. The petal tips can behave differently from the rest of the petals. There are many aging behaviors, so it would seem that several genes are at work. Zinnia genetics are quite complex, and zinnias can be full of surprises. I like that.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

I've still only got a few that have flowered up, but the next wave of both commercial packets and my own collected seeds are coming right along.

Genetics play a role, but it's been interesting to me to see how the environment can change how well the genes express on a single plant. This is another side flower off that same plant:

My other two plants each have a few inner petals that are exhibiting different characteristics that may correspond to fertilizing schedules. This one has one or two inner petals that looked trumpet shaped with wispy ends:

I really like that effect and would love to encourage it.

This one has one oddly shaped inner petal as well that I don't know the name to describe the shape:

Finally, the baby, the embryo I decided was too immature to survive on the paper towel a few days ago. I stuck it in a flat with some sunflowers just to give it a fighting chance. It hasn't managed to develop any color, but it's got a wispy little root and it seems to be trying, at least. I'll be seriously impressed if it manages to keep going.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi MG,

Your indoor zinnias are looking good. I am truly impressed, because growing zinnias indoors isn't easy. Your second picture shows an interesting zinnia trait, namely that the backside of the petals there are white. I and JG have also noticed that trait from time to time. For my tubulars and her extreme rolls, a white backside is a definite advantage. I will be on the lookout for other good backside petal colors.

"Genetics play a role, but it's been interesting to me to see how the environment can change how well the genes express on a single plant. This is another side flower off that same plant..."

You have called attention to another thing that JG and I have noticed about zinnias, namely that very significant differences in the blooms can occur from one zinnia branch to another. I'm not sure that is purely environmental -- it seems to me that some actual differences -- possibly genetic differences -- exist between different zinnia branches. I know that in roses there is such a thing as a "bud sport", in which a new variety appears on a branch. That would be an example of actual genetic differences from one branch to another.

I have several tubular specimens in bloom indoors now, and this is one that I am using as a breeder to produce seeds and occasional pollen for use on other breeders.

I have been attempting to combine the tubular petal genetics with the star-tipped petal mutant that appeared last year, and this is one indoor specimen that appears to combine both traits.

It is also a prime breeder. I have seedlings growing now from green seeds and embryos from my current adult breeders. They constitute a second generation of indoor zinnias this Winter.

Incidentally, I have had several instances in which an embryo pushed its root up instead of its cotyledons. I dug up a couple of roots-first seedlings today and replanted them right-side up. There may be some advantage to leaving some of the green seed coat on. Those little embryos that attempt to grow upside down worry me about the practice of embryo culture. I will continue to plant both, and I won't go to embryos exclusively.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

I am not too sure I would be too fast to blame that on embryo work. I have had pretty much every type of seed I have started with a long soak have at least one example of seedlings being odd, whether it be roots growing up, or stems looping instead of reaching for the light. I have had nasturtiums, beans, and a several other seeds do that. Perhaps it's partially a drowning response or something else? I also have been wondering if exposing the embryo to environmental contaminants like radiation and virii while so vulnerable increases their genetic instability. In most cases, that would be bad, but quite nice for new things.

Your comments about bud variety is interesting. Since each petal is a potential seed, I suppose I should try to save those exact seeds and see what happens. I was thinking the nutrients had an effect, just because the main bud grew that "crown" after starting with only a double layer of pink, and then the some of the side buds grew in at the same time with a full poof look, but more recent blooms are the initial double layer. I will have to keep an eye out and be more rigorous with nutrition to try and tell the difference.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

MG,

" Perhaps it's partially a drowning response or something else? "

It could be something like that. That "drowning response" is a novel idea for plants, and not a bad one. Zinnias, like many plants, can drown if their roots are submerged in water for an extended time. Perhaps they have "learned" to avoid drowning when possible.

" I also have been wondering if exposing the embryo to environmental contaminants like radiation and virii while so vulnerable increases their genetic instability. In most cases, that would be bad, but quite nice for new things. "

I hadn't thought of that possible aspect of embryo culture, but embryo culture is a "new experience" for zinnias, and it might induce mutations. I know that tissue culture is known to induce mutations, fairly frequently.

" Since each petal is a potential seed, I suppose I should try to save those exact seeds and see what happens. "

That could potentially be a very useful experiment. Each zinnia seed in a seed head is genetically independent, in that it arose from an independent egg cell that was fertilized by an independent pollen grain. But the characteristics of the petal itself may be at least partially, and possibly wholly, controlled by the mother plant. If the mother plant produces the unfertilized egg cell before developing the petal or floret (or petalloid), does the egg cell's genetics affect the development of the petal? And where does the equivalent of the placental barrier exist in a zinnia bloom, if that is even a meaningful question.

I have on occasions saved unusual seeds separately, or saved seeds based on unusual petal configurations. But that is the exception rather than the rule, because I save a lot of zinnia seeds. I usually segregate seeds attached to tubular petals from floret seeds, because floret seeds are almost always selfed, while tubular petal seeds are frequently cross-pollinated.

" I will have to keep an eye out and be more rigorous with nutrition to try and tell the difference. "

I get the impression that zinnias sometimes "throw pollen" by producing pollen florets instead of petals in response to stress. But environment is not the exclusive controller of floret production, and genetics causes some zinnias to produce lots of florets regardless of the environment, or very nearly no florets regardless of the environment.

We might be able to influence the zinnia flower development with nutrition, light, or by the application of specific hormones or growth regulators. Growing zinnias, indoors and outdoors, is a continuing learning experience for me. I continue to be impressed by how much I don't know.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

I got six that tried to wake up out of about 15 seeds I tried. Not bad for being so over eager.

I have two that are standing up and looking pretty, ready to spit out their first true leaves, and four more just pushing up, still white and root. They are growing with some Purity and Envy seeds, to cross with them.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

MG,

Six out of 15 seeds isn't bad for a start. At this stage you probably have a source of some more green seeds to experiment with.

I have been putting quantities of selected breeder green seeds in trays to dry, for planting in rows outside after the danger of frost is past. That was one of my main motives for growing this generation of zinnias inside. Many of them are F1 crosses between tubular petaled zinnias and the star-tipped mutant. As F1 crosses, it is likely that many significant characteristics are not visible in a recessive state. So I want to grow a significant number of F2 specimens, in which recombinations can occur to reveal new forms. Since I am limited to something on the order of 100 adult indoor plants, I have to depend on outdoor growing to achieve the numbers of zinnia plants needed to increase my odds of getting something new and good. I am building up a supply of seeds to do that.

Years ago, before I knew of the possibilities of a tubular-petaled mutant zinnia, I was attracted to zinnias that just had the appearance of being tubular petaled, like this one.

That specimen only appeared to have tubular petals, but in reality the petals were "pinched" or "rolled" to give a tubular effect. As the bloom developed, those petals would open up and the illusion was lost.

What is nice about JackieR's "extreme roll" strain is that her extreme-roll zinnia petals do not lose their rolled effect as their blooms mature. I have had Whirligig specimens that had "pinched" or "rolled" petals that hinted at the effect of that flower form.

I plan to grow more Whirligigs this year, looking for interesting variants, include the rolled petals. I would like to get something comparable to JG's extreme rolls.

The Whirligigs are an interesting strain, and if you plan to grow zinnias outside in the garden this year, I would recommend that you try some of the Whirligigs. You just might find a specimen or specimens that you would like to add to your zinnia gene pool.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

I accidentally broke off the bloom picking at it for seeds, so I broke the head up and dried the plump seeds. Being super slick and coordinated, I flipped the dish holding them up into the air, neatly distributing about half of them on the carpet and the other half into the lettuce planter below it.

I decided that disease potential being what it is, I'd save the ones from the carpet and water in the seeds in the lettuce and just see what happens :)

Here's some rapid growth from the seedlings that were still white in the second picture:

I have mini buds forming on the second wave of my plantings, should only be a couple weeks now to find out what the majority of my saved dead heads yielded!

I've purchased just about every kind of zinnia packet I could find EXCEPT for the multi colored kinds (Peppermint, peruvians, and the like). I didn't want to introduce that variable into my playing around. I don't think I've found any Whirlygig packets, but I do have a few different cactus flowering types. This year, the zinnias are going to get their own flower beds instead of being only potted plants.

I can't wait for these guys to be back:


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi MG,

I have also had mishaps handling zinnia seeds from time to time. I actually have a small collection of zinnia seeds labeled "floor seeds".

This is an aging indoor zinnia that started as a baby pink specimen, but whose color faded and concentrated in the petal tips.

I saved green seeds from it. Some of my second generation indoor zinnias are coming along fairly well.

Several seedlings from my G80 breeder show a strong tendency for a chlorophyll shortage in the new petals. In my scheme, each breeder gets a unique code starting with a letter followed by the sequential number in which designations were assigned. Breeders from 2013 stock start with the letter "G". New breeders this year will get a code starting with the letter "H". This is one of the green-deficient G80 seedlings.

Since several G80 seedlings show the same green shortage, that is probably a genetic defect in those seedlings. A few G80 seedlings are normal. I could pluck the defective seedlings now, but I guess I will let things develop for the time being.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Thanks ZM for alerting me to this site - some very interesting reading, and I haven't made it past the first page yet. ;)
I won't be able to do more than dabble with this enterprise, since the majority of my light table space will be taken up with the veggies, plus those flowers that I always start indoors to plug in here and there in the garden: petunias, annual lobelia, nasturtiums and whatever new additions such as the butterfly delphiniums seeds I bought this season. I am particularly partial to blues - hence the delphs and the lobelia.
And on that note, I'd like to throw my 2 cents worth in on the subject of blues and insects - I think it may greatly depend on the flower variety as to its attractiveness, since my blue centaurea montana is a flying insect magnet! And the lobelias, small as they are, get alot of attention. The more purple "blues" (don't you love how the gardening catalogs consistently label things as "blue" when they are clearly purple or lavender? I like purple, violet and lavenders, but blue is blue, and the others are not!) are also high-trafficked.
But I will also add that the honey bee population was significantly lower this past season, mostly bumble bees. Can't say that I remember many monarchs either, though we also have a multiple large patches of milkweed growing wild on and around our 5-1/4 acre property. If it makes a difference, I will say that our variety here is a deeper pink-salmon than the pic you posted, ZM.
BTW, here’s my light table arrangement ��" there are other fluorescents mounted under the main table. I have to do a lot of jockeying around as things grow. Later they go into the greenhouse, which isn’t heated, so unfortunately can’t be used till late April/early May. Tried heating it once ��" astronomically expensive. :(


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Oh, forgot to add that last year I didn't put in the cover crop of buckwheat that I use when covering a fallow field. We are trying to choke out some canary grass in a large area that was neglected, and so had a big highway-grade tarp over it. I'm anxious to see the results, since that ground has been under cover since year before last - of course that won't stop dormant seeds from germinating, but it will be a pleasure to not have to immediately battle grass! And I will put some of the other garden under buckwheat to give it a rest. That may bring more of the honeybees back, we hope. Here's one area that is exclusively flowers.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

That flower area looks beautiful. It has a great naturalized look. I'll have to look into the idea of using buckwheat as a cover crop. I tilled a lot of my garden after my Fall cleanup, and it is lying as plowed ground under a melting snow cover right now. I would like to be able to till in some fresh organic matter, and buckwheat might be the answer. I don't till in or compost zinnia plants, to avoid disease problems, but I did till in some compost in some areas last Fall.

"I won't be able to do more than dabble with this enterprise, since the majority of my light table space will be taken up with the veggies, plus those flowers that I always start indoors to plug in here and there in the garden..."

I think you could just skip starting zinnias indoors this year, and just plant some in-ground after the danger of frost is over. That is the easiest way to grow a bunch of zinnias, and it doesn't tie up pots and medium and such. You have a lot of available space to grow things, and that can be an important asset when breeding zinnias. The more zinnias you can grow, the better your chances are of finding something good.

As you get more into the hobby, and get "bitten by the bug", next year you might benefit from an early start of some of your favorite "breeder" zinnias in your greenhouse. Even an unheated greenhouse can give you about a month of early start.

But this year, just some ordinary in-ground zinnia planting can be an easy introduction to the hobby. Right now all you have to do is pick what packets of zinnias you want to plant after it is safe. You expressed a preference for cactus flowered zinnias, and that is a good start. I also like their informal flower forms. And they come in a wide variety of colors, mostly as mixtures. However, Hazzard's does have many separate colors of zinnias, including white cactus flowered zinnias. Some people might object to their bible verses, but I don't mind them, and Hazzard's has one of the biggest selections of zinnia seeds. (They have the wrong picture for their previous product, the giant cactus red zinnias -- someone should probably tell them about that.) I also get zinnia seeds from other companies, including Burpeeana Giants from Burpee's.

I grew a patch of Hazzard's white cactus flowered strain last year, and it could stand some improvement from strenuous selection of just a few of the best specimens. Of the ones I grew, I considered most to be off-type culls, although they were about 99% white and they weren't dahlia flowered or California giant flowered. But, most important of all, one of them was a star-petaled mutant that I went totally nuts about and crossed with practically everything in my garden.

I'll grow some more of those Hazzard's white cactus flowered zinnias again this year. I have some of their seed left over from last year because, as usual, I over-bought my zinnia seeds. Improving them can be a project all in itself this year. Simple selection can be a powerful zinnia breeding weapon.

I don't have a greenhouse, but I used my low tunnels as a kind of high capacity Winter Sowing zinnia project last year, with considerable success, and I plan to expand on that this Spring.

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

 photo DSCN0223_zps193eaaad.jpg

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Some pics of my first zinnia crop, lost a lot of seedlings to weather and animals but these guys manged to survive it all :)


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Kdog,

Great zinnia pics. You got some great close-ups, and a good butterfly picture, too. Welcome to the GardenWeb forums, and to this zinnia message thread. Tell us a little about yourself and your zinnias. What sort of animals did damage to your zinnias? Do you think it was deer? And what are your plans for zinnias this year? I am glad you are here.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

ZM - yeah, the greenhouse is a great help, even being unheated. I can count on a 10 degree difference at least from outside - and much more, of course, if the sun is shining.
I had already ordered all my seeds, previous to starting discussion with you on the other forum, but now I'm considering picking up a packet of whirlygig zinnias to try some crosses with my mixed cactus. Plus I've got some seed I saved from last year. My experience in the past had been that nothing much good came from trying to cross hybrid annuals or saving their seed, but I'm thinking I may have been too critical in dismissing those lacking symmetry and/or desired colors. Judging by the pics you've posted and your info about F2s, I will look more closely into the positive qualities exhibited that I might want to enlarge upon. And this time, I WILL keep decent records of my crosses! :)


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Well i've always enjoyed zinnias but until last year all the seeds I had purchased were of rather inferior quality and germination never really occurred. Finally last year I purchased seed from a reputable vendor and had far greater success. I'm not sure what might have eaten my stout seedlings though I suspect rabbits to be the culprits. This year I plan to use the seeds from last years plants and take more caution into where I place them outside. The location that my survivors wound up seems perfect so hopefully all will go well there again. The butterflies love them so I cant wait to see them visiting again this year!


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

"...but now I'm considering picking up a packet of whirlygig zinnias to try some crosses with my mixed cactus."

I highly recommend doing that. The Whirligigs have been the main "secret sauce" in my crosses with cactus flowered zinnias. They come in many variants other than the pictures that you see on the packet. For example, this was one of my Whirligigs that looked nothing like the packet or catalog pictures.

It was a rather unimpressive bloom, but it had a couple of unusual traits. Its petals hung way down, and they had noticeable "teeth" on their tips. By intercrossing different toothy zinnias, I was able to accentuate the "toothiness".

And the flatter hanging down petal traits transformed the cactus flowerform into something more dramatic.

Burpee used to carry a good double form of Whirligigs, but they dropped the variety. I got most of my Whirligig seeds from Stokes. Their Whirligigs are reasonably double, and economical when you buy in larger quantities than a packet. I see that unfortunately they are back ordered right now on their quantity packages. I got a quarter of a pound from them several years ago, and I will probably just finish that off this year with a big patch of Whirligigs. Fortunately zinnia seeds keep for several years when stored in reasonable conditions. You might be able to pick up Whirligig zinnia packets off a local seed rack, or order from one of many other catalog sources of them.

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

ZM - I'll just grab a seed packet next time I'm at the hardware or one of the box stores. If I dare order from a catalog, I'll end up ordering even more to justify the postage spent! I've got my ordering down to a science: I look at all the catalogs, circling everything I might want. I make comparison lists detailing pricing, days to harvest, height and color, and estimated shipping costs. And then I start crossing things off the lists to try to get the cost down to something reasonable! (And generally end up ordering from only a couple of places, with E&R being my primary source as they offer a fairly good selection of veggies and flowers at affordable prices - and in graduated amounts since they are wholesalers as well as retailers).
I used to allow myself more leeway in ordering flowers, but these days I stick with the old standards, saving my own seed where I can. There was a time where I would be transplanting hundreds of seedlings - veggies and flowers - each season, generally 2-3 times indoors before they ever made it to the garden, but I don't have the time or energy (or desire) for that anymore.
Hybridizing will be a pleasurable addition to my gardening. I'll have to try doing some peppers and eggplants as well.
Couple more weeks still till I start any seeds - am getting severe cabin fever with this extended cold we're experiencing. That, and the cats are driving us crazy bouncing off the walls...:)
Here's an old pic of the garden in 2010. I went a little overboard since my garden the year before due to health was almost nothing. You can see the buckwheat as a white mass in the upper right. And you can see our makeshift deer fencing - green plastic mesh attached to an existing corral fence, extending the height to about 8 feet.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Kdog,

"I'm not sure what might have eaten my stout seedlings though I suspect rabbits to be the culprits. This year I plan to use the seeds from last years plants and take more caution into where I place them outside."

If rabbits are a problem with your zinnias, you can fence them out of an area with chicken wire. Rabbits don't climb well. A small roll of chicken wire shouldn't cost a lot and you could get by with some rather small things for "posts". A small circular area might not even need any support other than the chicken wire itself.

We have rabbits and deer in our rural area, and fortunately neither of them have taken a liking to my zinnias. The rabbits did wipe out my kohlrabi last year, and this year I plan to use the chicken wire method of protecting kohlrabi, lettuce, and anything else that the rabbits might find to be tasty. There are plenty of wild plants in this area that the rabbits and deer can eat instead of my garden. I have a particular liking for kohlrabi.

Rabbits might not have been the culprits that ate your zinnias. In some areas slugs can be very destructive of zinnias. They feed at night and can eat a lot of zinnia foliage in a single night. If you suspect slugs, you can go out at night with a flashlight and see if there are any slugs on your zinnias.

In the past I have had serious problems with cutworms felling my zinnia seedlings. Not so much in recent years. Now we have guineas that are a big help against insect pests in the garden. If you see a zinnia lying on its side and cut off at the ground level, a cutworm probably did it. If you have problems with your zinnias again this year, try to figure out what did it. It might help to post some pictures of the damage.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Come to think of it, I believe it was the slugs that ate them. I have such a variety of critters that take a liking to my plants I often forget what attacks what haha. The slugs were much more likely and now that I think back I'm pretty sure I recall seeing some of their slimy tracks along the edge of my planters that the zinnias were in!


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Seed order arrived in the mail yesterday - not long now!
Have been reading more of this forum and admit to being somewhat intimidated by the complexity of crossing composite flowers as opposed to the simple ones with a single obvious stigma and obvious anthers. When you start talking about gathering green seeds and doing dissection - yikes! :) This forum has been around for quite awhile, so I'm hopeful there will be someone to go to with questions when the time comes.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

"...admit to being somewhat intimidated by the complexity of crossing composite flowers as opposed to the simple ones with a single obvious stigma and obvious anthers. "

It is not at all complex to cross-pollinate zinnias. In the morning the pollen is expressed freely in the pollen florets, which contain the anther bundles internally, and the stigmas are readily accessible at the base of the petals. If you prefer to transfer the pollen with a brush, simply touch the brush to a pollen floret to get some of the pollen on the tip of the brush. That takes only a few seconds to do.

Then touch the brush to the stigmas that you want to pollinate. A single brush loading can pollinate several stigmas.

Or you can use tweezers or forceps to pick a pollen floret and use the floret itself as a pollen-bearing brush.

And simply rub that floret against the stigmas that you want to pollinate.

Regardless of whether you prefer to use an artist's brush, tweezers, twissors, or forceps to pick up the pollen, the pollen florets and stigmas are relatively large, easy to see, and easy to get at. You can pollinate a lot of zinnia stigmas in only a few minutes. Gathering green seeds is as simple as plucking out a few zinnia petals.

" This forum has been around for quite awhile, so I'm hopeful there will be someone to go to with questions when the time comes."

There is always someone to answer questions and don't hesitate to ask about anything that you aren't sure of. Regardless of which technique you use in pollination or seed gathering, it is easy to do. Zinnia seeds are relatively large and easy to handle.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

ZM - I guess most of the issue with me is the multiple stigmas. Do you try to pollinate them all, or only some? And if you miss some, how do you designate which ones of the many you've done? How can you be sure later which ones are ones you pollinated and which ones are selfs, or insect-pollinated? Should I be removing the anthers on the seed parent, so as to narrow down the possibilities?
Thanks for your help! - Alex


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

"I guess most of the issue with me is the multiple stigmas. Do you try to pollinate them all, or only some?"

As you can see in this picture of a newly opening zinnia bloom, there is a yellow forked stigma at the base of each petal.

Since zinnias are composites, the zinnia flower head is composed of botanically many flowers. A botanical flower is capable of producing a seed. At the stage of development in the picture, each petal is a flower all in itself and consists of the petal itself, the stigma and the unfertilized ovary. The stigma leads to the ovary. A pollen grain can stick to the stigma, germinate, and grow down the stigma to reach the ovary and fertilize the egg cell within the ovary, which can then develop into a zinnia embryo in a zinnia seed. Since each stigma that gets fertilized produces one and only one zinnia seed, I try to pollinate as many stigmas as I can, simply to increase the seed yield from that zinnia bloom.

"And if you miss some, how do you designate which ones of the many you've done?"

You are asking some good questions. I apply the pollen to the stigmas in the morning because that is when the pollen appears in the pollen-bearing "fuzzy yellow starfish" florets. Sometimes you can see some pollen that you put on a stigma, but usually you can't, even if you have gotten many pollen grains onto the stigma. But the next day you will see that the stigmas that got fertilized are wilting, withering, becoming brown and dead, while the stigmas that aren't fertilized yet are still fresh and perky little yellow forks. So you have a second chance to pollinate them. That continues for several days, so you have multiple chances to fertilize a stigma before it becomes too old to function.

If you are persistent in applying pollen over a period of several days, you can fertilize a high percentage of the stigmas in a zinnia bloom. As a zinnia bloom develops, it continues to produce new petals with stigmas, so some zinnia blooms can produce a lot of petals and produce a huge seed count if you manage to fertilize a high percentage of their stigmas.

New petals can overlap existing unfertilized stigmas, so you can lift up petals looking for unfertilized stigmas. I am right-handed, so it is natural for me to apply the pollen with my right hand while using my left hand to steady the bloom and manipulate the petals for access to the stigmas. A zinnia bloom can continue to develop over a period of weeks, so some blooms can produce a lot of petals and each petal is attached to a potentially fertilized seed. A bloom like the one in this picture can produce more than a hundred seeds, enough to plant a fairly large zinnia bed.

Since a single zinnia plant can produce several blooms, a single plant could potentially produce enough seed to plant a large zinnia garden. Zinnias are potentially prolific.

"How can you be sure later which ones are ones you pollinated and which ones are selfs, or insect-pollinated?"

You can't be totally sure, but when you see the resulting plants you can have a pretty good idea which ones came from your pollinations, knowing the nature of the zinnia you took pollen from and the appearance of the female flower. You can place a "hairnet" over a zinnia bloom to keep the bees off of it. But I don't think that is necessary. You have a big advantage over the bees, because they aren't trying to pollinate, they don't know or care about the stigmas, and they are just gathering nectar and/or pollen. So any pollination they do is purely an accident. Whereas you are deliberately gathering pollen to place on stigmas, so you are an order of magnitude more effective than the bees.

"Should I be removing the anthers on the seed parent, so as to narrow down the possibilities?"

The anthers are inside the pollen florets, so you could remove those florets and discard them, or use them to pollinate a different bloom. I usually select my female zinnia blooms as ones that aren't producing a lot of pollen florets, so "emasculating them" isn't much of an issue. Good questions.

ZM

This post was edited by zenman on Sat, Feb 22, 14 at 12:04


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

ZM - thank you kindly. I excell at questions; listening I am still working on. :) Your explanations are quite clear, and I have bookmarked them for future use - we will see what fruit they produce!


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi all,

It helps when you are breeding your own zinnias to have some kind of goal in mind. It doesn't have to be a hard-and-fast goal, and you may see some zinnia that has a novel characteristic that causes you to set a new goal. As you get several zinnias in bloom, you will probably formulate several goals.

One goal I have is to develop a large zinnia with a very dark color. Not exactly black, but very dark. This bloom was a step in that direction.

It had a fairly dark cerise-purple, but not nearly as dark as I want to go. In the 1930's and 1940's there was a zinnia strain named "Black Ruby" and it was very, very dark, but had small Cupid or Lilliput styled blooms. Sadly, Black Ruby is no longer available, and it may be extinct. I think it is scandalous that seed companies don't maintain safe storage of important zinnia varieties, but apparently they don't. Zinnias can have some very dark purple petal color, like on this Persian Carpet or Aztec Sunset specimen (I don't remember which it was).

Persian Carpets and its dwarf plant version, Aztec Sunset, are cultivars of Zinnia haageana, which was crossed with Zinnia violacea (elegans) over a hundred years ago to create interspecific hybrids. Progeny from those eventually became the Whirligig strain, and since Whirligigs arose from an interspecific cross, they continue to show a lot of recombinatorial variation. This was a Whirligig specimen I had a couple of years ago.

It has some fairly dark purple coloration, but not nearly as dark as the Persian Carpet purple, so I have a way to go before getting to a large very dark purple cactus flowered zinnia. I have been using Burpeeana Giants as my primary source of cactus breeding material, and that flower form has interacted with the wild Whirligig genes to produce some purples with a somewhat different flower form.

That flower form has cactus influence and Whirligig influence, but it is essentially a different informal zinnia flower form. Unfortunately it started as a medium purple and faded with age to a lighter purple. So I have quite a way to go to get that big dark zinnia. I am flexible on the flower form. It doesn't have to be cactus flowered, and I would be quite happy with an informal flower form like in that last picture, or one of the variant flower forms that I have, like aster flowered. I also want the dark purple in a spider flowered form with white tips, but that is a somewhat different zinnia goal. It is fun pursuing specific goals in zinnias.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

These are gorgeous - especially that last one! Not sure what specific goal I'd have - more, I know what I DON'T want. I'm not a fan of anything pom-pom - to me, a most un-flower-like shape.
I do like things that are picotee, but in a narrow band - a slight accent of lighter color. I can admire any single bi-colored flower, but when I imagine them as a drift of flowers in a bed, the feeling is that it's too much, too busy. Unless the colors are soft, muted and flowing.
I mentioned I prefer the cactus flowered zinnias - I'd say this is because they are graceful and flowing, not static and regular. Some of the pompom and other types seem too perfect to be real, if you get what I mean. Perfect, flawless symmetry in nature is a curiosity and draws the eye. Such things are awe-inspiring, but for me, it is the irregularities in an otherwise pleasing shape, color, arrangement,etc that
lend that touch of individuality that inspires a sense of Beauty. The "Snowflake Syndrome": if they were all alike, when I look outside I'd only be thinking to myself "Dang - it's snowing AGAIN!"...Wait a minute - that IS what I'm thinking! :)


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Was thinking there was a pic of a zinnia from last year's garden - just found it. And just as you were saying earlier, here's a bee resting on it in the cooler morning temperature. This was in mid October.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

That red zinnia actually is somewhat bicolored, suffusing toward magenta at the petal base. It may very well have distant Whirligig parentage.

"I can admire any single bi-colored flower, but when I imagine them as a drift of flowers in a bed, the feeling is that it's too much, too busy. Unless the colors are soft, muted and flowing."

I respect that. Although the bicolored (and tri-colored) petal coloration does tend to lose its drama from a distance. This is a picture of my south garden a couple of years ago, when it was devoted entirely to Whirligigs.

From a distance you can still see the light colored petal tips, but things tend to merge together from a distant viewpoint. I didn't plant that garden for landscaping effect, but for breeding purposes -- hence the 6-foot wide paths and 4-foot wide zinnia beds. I adopted that layout to guarantee accessibility to the individual blooms for breeding purposes, and to leave enough space to get my wheelbarrow between the zinnia beds. As the zinnia plants develop, they spread out at least a foot, so that the 4-foot zinnia beds become 6-foot beds and the 6-foot paths become 4-foot paths. I plant the 4-foot beds as 4 rows spaced 16 inches apart, with two of the rows at the very edges of the bed. I used to lay out 3-foot wide paths, and they essentially disappeared as the zinnias developed, making access somewhat awkward and accidental damage to the zinnias fairly common. I will continue the 6-foot path 4-foot bed layout again this year. I have a fairly large garden, and I can afford to "waste" some space for the wide paths in the interest of convenient access.

"Some of the pompom and other types seem too perfect to be real, if you get what I mean."

I do get what you mean. In the past I have grown some Cut-and-Come-Again and Oklahoma zinnias for their branching plants, which most large zinnias lack, with the exception of the Burpeeana Giants, which have branching bushes as a design feature of the breed. So I do have some "pompon" genes floating around in my gene pool, and I occasionally get a flower like this one.

My first reaction to it was that it didn't look real. And that access to its stigmas would be somewhat difficult. And that I could cut the bloom off with no stem and use it for batting practice.

I will continue to grow some of the Oklahoma variety for its branching plants. The Burpeeana Giants have been selected out of cactus stock for large bloom size and branching plants, but the old original version of the cultivar that was available in the 70s or 80s had better branching bushes, in my opinion. So that characteristic is worthy of further improvement. Plant form and flower form are important zinnia traits to me.

ZM

This post was edited by zenman on Sun, Feb 23, 14 at 13:30


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

"From a distance you can still see the light colored petal tips, but things tend to merge together from a distant viewpoint."

I'll tell you what I'm seeing in that pic - a lovely absence of grass in between your rows. Sigh. I also plant in beds, but I limit their width to about 3 ft, as I am a small person and I discovered 4 ft raised beds were a bit of a strain for me to reach comfortably to the center. And I am stingier with my path space than you, wanting every inch possible for crops - they are also about 3 ft wide. Of course, I often regret it, as my husband, who does most of the rototilling for me ( he is not much into gardening, but he says it's his contribution for the food I grow), does occasionally take out a plant or two that's growing a little close to the edge. Understand, this only happens with things that have been direct seeded or are volunteers, and I've allowed the seed to grow where it has fallen. There's something delightful about having a volunteer nasturtium peaking up through the leaves of a squash. So much so, that I have taken to sowing flower seeds at random in the fall and spring in hopes of just such an event.

I think that pom pom you've posted is gorgeous! I would have to say it would be an exception to the rule for me. The coloration is amazing - the darker blush to the tips, the lighter center, and is it just the photo, or are the petals actually dark-lined around the edges? I hope you didn't use it for batting practice, but instead as a prized propagator.

You keep mentioning the Burpeeana Giants - I'll have to see if I can find an individual package when I go buy the whirligigs. I can see the future - less of the garden will be put to buckwheat this year than I originally planned, because I will need the space for zinnias. Ha!


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

"... is it just the photo, or are the petals actually dark-lined around the edges?"

They are not dark-lined around the edges. The edges of the leaves are slightly thicker than the inside of the leaves. It is almost like the edge cells themselves may be bit fatter. In any case, that dark line you see is actually a shadow of that thickened edge. It barely shows in that photo, but the zinnia leaf edges actually have some tiny white bodies that appear spaced maybe an eight of an inch to a quarter of an inch apart at the very edge. I think they serve some function, although I have no idea what. I have noticed them for years, but those white dots on zinnia leaf edges remain a mystery for me. A botanist might know exactly what they are. Unfortunately my knowledge of botany is very limited. If you look closely, you can see the white dots on one leaf in this picture.

Not all zinnia leaves have them, but they aren't extremely rare. That zinnia happens to be one of my "toothy" strain, which I hope to improve a lot. Some of the toothy specimens can be rather spectacularly different from the ordinary zinnias.

Every time I go inspecting my outdoor zinnia garden I will see some unusual little quirk in a zinnia that suggests a breeding goal in a new direction. Some people might say that I have "too many irons in the fire", and they could be right.

"I hope you didn't use it for batting practice, but instead as a prized propagator."

I didn't use it as a breeder, and it didn't put out any pollen of its own, so it didn't set any seeds. The pom pom flower form can be rather spectacular in the large sizes like that one, but "they aren't my cup of tea". I do like the scabious recombinants that have a big full center, like this one.

Sometimes that scabious center can become a bit disorganized, like this one.

If you look closely, you can see that that one has some bicolored Whirligig heritage in addition to its Scabiosa flowered heritage. When you cross-pollinate some of your slightly unusual zinnias, things can get a bit weird.

"You keep mentioning the Burpeeana Giants - I'll have to see if I can find an individual package when I go buy the whirligigs."

Sometimes you can find the Burpeeana Giants on the seed rack in Walmart. Of course, you can always order them direct from Burpee, although they cost a bit more that way.

ZM

This post was edited by zenman on Mon, Feb 24, 14 at 20:00


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

A word popped into my head in connection with your description of the white spots on the leaves - "stomata". I didn't check it right away, but I just now went to see if I was right, and I'm pretty sure I am. Those are specialized pores for the release of gases. BTW, I really like the white "toothy" hybrid in that pic. You said you'd like to come up with a different name for it - you could go with the latin: dentem. I don't know latin, you understand, but pieces of things stick in my head, sort of like the stomata thingie, and I remember "dent-" being associated with teeth. Maybe you could vary it a bit and say "dentic" or some such. It's the common practice, afterall, in botany to use latin nomenclature that is recognized world-wide. Those Romans really got around.

The purple one pictured next looks much like my centaurea montana - I love these primarily for their rich blue color, but also for their hardiness and self-seeding tendencies.

The scabious form is wonderful, too. It would be too much work to post here for you, but a graph like a family tree to show how you got to a particular destination, would be fascinating to see.

Apologies for the quality of the photo - it's from an old pic and I had to adjust size, but couldn't get it any sharper.

This post was edited by samhain10 on Tue, Feb 25, 14 at 9:34


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

>>These are gorgeous - especially that last one! Not sure what specific goal I'd have - more, I know what I DON'T want. I'm not a fan of anything pom-pom - to me, a most un-flower-like shape. <<<

That's exactly how this thread gets you. You discover you can walk into a hardware store, pick up a half dozen different shapes and varieties, and by the end of the summer, you can have as many as four different generations going at once. Zinnias are really interesting in their flexibility. With enough effort, it seems like you can make them look like almost any other native wild flower.

Except blue ones, unless I get really, really, really, really, really lucky.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hey Mister Guy - if you come up with a blue, I definitely want to see it! Now that would be something to strive for. But I think I'll start small - like maybe see if I can make ANY successful cross - ha!
- Alex


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi all,

I have alluded to the scabiosa flowered zinnias in past messages without specifically recommending them. They are "not for everyone" for several reasons, which I will mention in a moment, but some of you might want to try them anyway. A lot of seed racks don't have them, although I have bought them off of a seed rack in the past. I will link in a couple of online sources (there are several sources in addition to the ones that I am linking to.)

There are at least two strains of scabiosa flowered zinnias available today, although many seed companies do not offer either of them. They are not considered to be a "main stream" zinnia, and many people do not even know they exist. Apparently the oldest available strain is the Scabiosa Flowered zinnia. I am linking to Thompson & Morgan because they are the only company that I know of right off hand that offers both strains. And if you have a T&M seed rack in your area, you might be able to find them there. T&M refers to that strain as "Scabious flowered" which is, in my mind, slightly quirky.

The other scabiosa flowered zinnia strain is Candy Mixed, which is a newer strain that was introduced only a few years ago. T&M claims Candy Mixed as an "exclusive", but I kind of doubt that. I plan to grow some of each strain this year just to widen my gene pool. The Candy Mixed flower size is slightly larger than the Scabiosa flowered strain, but both strains have smaller flowers in the 1-inch to 2-inch diameter range.

Both strains suffer from the disadvantage that a lot of them don't come true to their description. I have grown beds of the original Scabiosa flowered strain that had as few as one in 20 "on type" specimens. For the average gardener, that would be completely unacceptable. As an amateur zinnia breeder, I am delighted to get one "good one" in twenty plants, because I can do a lot with that good one. Incidentally, the "off-type" scabious specimens are little single, semi-double, or double Cupid, Lilliput, or Pom Pom types, all bearing conventional "fuzzy yellow starfish" pollen florets.

The on-type scabious specimens have several good traits, the main one being that their florets are not "fuzzy yellow starfish" but have petal color and texture. I have no idea how or when that mutation occurred, but scabious zinnias have been around for many decades.

And they have other advantages, that you might not notice at first. Their plants are very well branched, which results in nice upright bushes. Alex, they wouldn't look out-of-place in that picture of mixed flowers that you posted a few messages above. The scabious plants have a kind of "wild flower" look.

The scabious plants also have a structural advantage, in that their branches do not leave the main stem at a right angle, but have a more slanted acute angle of attachment that is inherently a stronger joint. That is one disadvantage of the bushy Burpeeana Giants strain -- their side branches are cantilevered at right-angle attachments that aren't as strong as they should be, and their branches can break off when brushed by a passing dog or a storm with severe winds. It's not a deal-breaker for me, and I will continue to grow a lot of Burpeeana Giants, but I will be selecting for stronger branch joints with them. And I think that mixing in some scabious genes could help them in that area.

To me, it is worthwhile breeding in the scabious strain just for improvement of plant form and structure. And, of course, with cross-pollination, the scabious genes can lead to a whole spectrum of new flower forms, which was my prime motivation for making crosses involving them in the first place.

More on this subject later,

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)

This post was edited by zenman on Wed, Feb 26, 14 at 12:32


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Excellent collection of excellent people. I enjoyed the post the whole day long. What a pleasure!!! Fantastic!! Gardening is my favorite hobby too. I don't know how to write such beautiful post and show pictures of my garden. But really thanks for the flowers of their gardening. Amazing. Wow...

This post was edited by faisalpappu on Wed, Feb 26, 14 at 12:40


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Faisalpappu - I'm happy I stumbled across this group as well. People who know me well, know better than to get me started talking on the subject of gardening, unless they are equally as plant-crazy.
This morning I awoke to more of the same 6 degrees F temps, and the promise of 15 degrees BELOW for the early morning hours. Enough already! One of my few consolations being that Saturday is March 1st, when I shall start some of my first seeds under lights. And just for the heck of it, here's a pic of a hummingbird moth on one of my verbena bonariensis.
- Alex


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hello faisalpappu,

Welcome to this zinnia hobby message thread. I invite you to include some zinnias in your gardening this year and report on them in these message threads. And post pictures. We would be interested in what it is like to grow zinnias in Italy.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi all,

This is a "second installment" on my comments about possibly including the scabiosa flowered zinnias in your breeding program. Referring to this picture of Candy Mixed on the Park Seed website, you can see that the first row of petals on a scabiosa flowered zinnia are more or less conventional zinnia petals, with accessible stigmas that you can apply zinnia pollen of your choice to. (You can also see that Thompson & Morgan do not have an exclusive on this variety. Grin) I like it that Parks includes an off-type specimen in their photo, because you can expect a lot of off-type specimens in any commercial scabiosa flowered zinnia strain. I plant them fairly close together (maybe 6 inches apart) knowing that I will be pulling out a lot of them and discarding them as culls.

As a slightly off-topic comment, I especially admire the copy writer(s) at Park Seed. The Park Seed descriptions of their zinnia seed varieties, and their offerings in general, are especially detailed, original, and helpful. In my opinion, Park Seed's website and, to a lesser extent, their paper catalog, would be a top contender for well written descriptions. And I hasten to add that I am not associated with them in any way, other than as a repeat customer.

But back to the scabiosa flowered zinnias. Their guard petals are your "way in" to breeding with them. The specimens that do have pollen florets are off-type, and for that reason I wouldn't use those florets for any cross-pollinations. In fact, I consider the pollen-bearing scabiosa zinnias as culls, so I pull them up and discard them. That makes more room for my "good zinnias".

The scabiosa flowered zinnias have small blooms, so I almost always cross them with larger zinnias. If there is some advantage to crossing them with cupid or Lilliput or pom pom zinnias, I will probably miss out on it. My primary pollen sources for cross pollinating scabiosa flowered zinnias have been Burpeeana Giants and Whirligigs and some larger flowered Whirligig x Burpeeana hybrids. Some hybrid results have much longer guard petals, which makes the bloom larger.

In many recombinations, both the florets and the guard petals become larger.

Sometimes the central floret area becomes much larger than is typical in the original scabiosa flowered variety.

That specimen was produced from one of my first scabi x Burpeeana crosses, and it "bowled me over" and "fired me up" for my zinnia hobby. I referred to it as "sunflower flowered" because of its large crested center, which produced an abundant supply of selfed seeds in that center. It is now a distant ancestor of many of my scabious forms. Sometimes the size increase applies just to the crested center and the "original" guard petals are almost lost in the result.

That kind of recombination can produce almost pom pom like flower forms.

When the petals are fairly long and the centers are medium sized, I refer to that result as "Echinacea flowered".

There is a whole spectrum of recombinations possible, resulting in flowers of various sizes.

I feel that I have just scratched the surface in my exploration of what the scabious zinnia genes can do in various recombinations with other zinnia genes, especially what could happen when some of my other mutant genes become involved. I will explore that, and some more scabious recombinant forms in a later message. And there are some interesting complexities in the scabious flower form that I will discuss.

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Wait a sec - which are the guard petals?
I'm really liking these scabi-formed zinnias. Dang - do I have to add a packet of those to the list as well?!


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

"...which are the guard petals?"

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

"...do I have to add a packet of those to the list as well?!"

It couldn't hurt. As long as you know you will be culling quite a few of them. The mere fact that their florets are petal color is an important feature to add into your gene pool. After you cross the scabis with a few other things, you can get an interesting variety of variant flower forms appearing.

You increase the range of variation of your zinnias by making your own hybrids, and then making crosses between those hybrids.

By crossing Whirligigs with scabious specimens, you can get subtle two-color transitions in those big guard petals.

The guard petals can get large and shaped a bit, and the individual central florets can get larger.

One of my goals this Summer is to get some really huge scabious florets, so that each floret is like an individual flower. That is actually the same theme I am working toward with my tubular and star-tipped petals. I want each zinnia bloom to be an explosion of individual flowers. And if I make some significant progress in that direction, I can throw some of the toothy petals into the mix. I have a witches cauldron in my mind when I am planning my zinnia crosses.

ZM

This post was edited by zenman on Fri, Feb 28, 14 at 0:54


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

"Bubble, bubble"...
Very nice pics - I am totally down with what a guard petal is now. And in awe of the variety your crosses are producing. Here you can picture me rubbing my hands together in gleeful anticipation - and a definite sense of impatience, since I realize that it will most likely not be next year, but the year after before I see anything remotely exciting. But then that's gardening for you. Plant a perennial seed or a tree seed and wait years sometimes for them to germinate, and then further years to see the first bloom! ZM - you, MG, and some of the others are giving the season a boost with the indoor gardening. I may start a 6 pack-worth or two under the lights in April, then move them to the greenhouse until planting-out time. Typically, I do this with my other plants: light table, followed by greenhouse with gradually increasing hardening-off excursions outside in flats if the weather is nice, though back in the greenhouse at night. Finally being planted out after frost or just before final frost date with provisions for covering at night close at hand if necessary. Do you think this will allow me time to have 2 generations?
- Alex, the ever hopeful


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

"Finally being planted out after frost or just before final frost date with provisions for covering at night close at hand if necessary. Do you think this will allow me time to have 2 generations? "

I think there is a good chance of it. It is definitely worth a try. You are in zone 5a and I am in zone 5b by the old zone map, although I may be in zone 6a in the revised "climate change" map. So your climate is a bit colder than mine and perhaps your growing season a few days shorter than mine.

But here is the plan. Zinnias bloom in about 6 weeks from seed, so you will see first blooms fairly early on, especially from those that you gave an early start indoors. First bloom will give you an opportunity to cull some that you just don't like. Any commercial scabiosa flowered zinnias that throw conventional "fuzzy yellow starfish" pollen florets would be a candidate for first bloom culling.

Take a day or two to "size up" your first blooms and then decide on which ones you want to cross pollinate with which ones. That decision will be strongly influenced by which ones have available pollen florets and which ones don't. It may be a few days before you have available pollen florets on zinnias that you like. The stigmas are receptive pretty much as soon as the petals open. Just pick pollen florets with tweezers or whatever and rub them on stigmas. You will do that in the morning shortly after the little "light bulb shaped" floret buds open their fuzzy starfish arms. As is convenient for you, cross-pollinate your favorites every morning, and mark in some way which blooms have received pollen. I will discuss in some detail how I do that in a later message. But you will find some way that works for you.

In any case, keep track of which zinnia blooms have stigmas that you have successfully pollinated, as indicated by the stigma shriveling and dying. About three weeks after that happens there will have been enough time for the embryo in the seed at the base of that petal to have developed enough to have produced a "fat" green seed on that petal. The petal itself may very well be alive and well, and still retaining reasonably good color. You will learn to "rifle through" a zinnia head to find the fat green seeds, and pick them one petal at a time. Plant them the same day you pick them to get your second generation started as soon as possible. You will probably be harvesting and planting green seeds over a period of weeks.

As those green-seed plants grow and bud out and begin to bloom you will enjoy the anticipation of seeing your first hybrid zinnias open up. That can be exciting. But then you will treat them the same way as your first generation. Promptly self and/or cross pollinate your favorites, label them, and as their green seeds "fatten up", pick them and dry them on an old newspaper or something, and after a week or two they should be dry enough to store. I store my seeds in Snack sized Ziploc bags with an included 3x5 card describing the seeds.

The green seed technique is your "secret weapon" for getting in two generations of zinnias outdoors. The green seeds that you save and dry in the Fall with be your first F2 generation, capable of remarkable and surprising recombinations of genetic traits. But this year will you have the experience of seeing your very own F1 hybrids, which themselves can be quite new and different. And you will have that "witches cauldron" experience of deciding which ones to cross with which ones, with the expectations of many surprises from them.

I'll go into more details of the process in subsequent messages, but I think that by fully exploiting the advantages of the green seed technique you have a good shot at two generations of your own zinnias this year.

Incidentally, I should credit Jackie Rosales, who has posted in these zinnia message threads many times as jackier (JackieR), for the tip about using the green seed technique for an early save of zinnia seeds in the Fall. Prior to that, I had used green seeds as a quick way of starting the next generation, but I had been saving my Fall seed crop the "old fashioned way" of waiting for the seed heads to get brown and dry in the garden. That "old way" had several disadvantages, including exposure of the seeds to seed-eating birds and water damage from rain. Several species of Finches seem to have an appetite for zinnia seeds, and rain can cause seeds to pre-germinate in the seed heads. When you are saving brown zinnia seeds and find a little dried root sticking out of the seed tip, you can toss that seed, because it is dead. Green seeds don't pre-germinate in the seed head, even in extensive rainy periods, because their seed coat is still living, and not permeable to water.

There is a reference to these zinnia breeding message threads in the book, Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener, and JackieR got a write up on page 81. The book seems to be reasonably priced. There is another book that has a whole chapter on zinnia breeding, but it is expensive.

More later,

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

ZM - OK, you've convinced me to try the green seed technique. It goes against my normal inclinations, but as it has been tried and proved successful, then I will proceed in good faith. No doubt I will have questions at the time, but right now this is bolstering my self confidence... (and taking up the time until the more than 2 ft of snow melts out there.)
As consolation prize for the fact that it is now March and they are STILL predicting below zero temps in the next few days, I ordered from T&M last night: scabious flowered Zinnias, Whirligigs, and Green Envy. (Think I remember you suggested to someone, probably MG, that it might not hurt to include it in the breeding in search of a blue zinnia.)
The moon is new today and in a water sign, so I may be pre-germinating my eggplants and peppers tonight. I've gotten to where I pregerminate all but the smallest seeds in damp paper towel in a polybag, since they tend to germinate faster and I can see which ones are good before I ever put them in their cells or cups.
- Alex


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

"...and taking up the time until the more than 2 ft of snow melts out there."

Omigosh !!! Are you in freakin Alaska ??? We had 9 inches of snow and it melted off nearly a week ago. It had drifted over our driveway maybe 18 inches in places, and gave my snow blower a good challenge. But I usually have to fire it up only once or twice a winter.

"...you've convinced me to try the green seed technique. It goes against my normal inclinations, but as it has been tried and proved successful, then I will proceed in good faith. No doubt I will have questions at the time..."

And I will have some questions, too. In the past I have just planted my outdoor-pulled green seeds petal and all, with no attempt to breach the green seed coat to speed up the germination. This year I will experiment with breaching the seed coat, the same as I always do indoors. I may even experiment with the outdoor planting of embryos. I am curious whether an embryo can survive in garden soil, without the protection of Physan 20 and the sterile growing media that my indoor embryos have had. But in the interest of saving time, I will probably continue to plant most of my outdoor green seeds petal-and-all and just wait for nature to take its course to break down the green seed coat.

"...I ordered from T&M last night: scabious flowered Zinnias, Whirligigs, and Green Envy."

I have decided to take my own advice on crossing with green zinnias. I didn't have any Green Envy on hand, but I found a packet of Burpee's Tequilla Lime in a drawer, so I planted some of those, and they are getting their first true leaves now. I should be cross-pollinating them sometime in April.

I'm glad you decided to try the scabis. I think that scabi genes are responsible for a lot of interesting new variations in zinnias, and I will be curious to see zinnia variations that you get.

"The moon is new today and in a water sign, so I may be pre-germinating my eggplants and peppers tonight. I've gotten to where I pregerminate all but the smallest seeds in damp paper towel in a polybag, since they tend to germinate faster and I can see which ones are good before I ever put them in their cells or cups."

I don't garden by the moon myself, but I have experimented with pre-germination in damp paper towels. Some zinnia seeds show a root in just a day. I have had some experiences with the root getting too long and curved to make it easy to transplant the tiny seedling without damaging or breaking off the root.

But the advantage that you mentioned about seeing which seeds are good and avoiding committing a small pot to a dead seed is real, and perhaps worth the effort of pre-germinating. I think I will return to some experiments with pre-germinating. I could even try pre-germinating green seeds and even "pre-germinate" some zinnia embryos.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Last section first: most definitely go with pre-germination. I cannot speak too highly of the practice. I'm not sure where or when I first heard of it and started doing it, but if you are checking the seeds daily - and if you're like me, you can't resist checking their progress daily - you can generally catch anything before it gets so embedded in the paper towel as to risk damage with removal. But even then, I have successfully saved the seedling by clipping around the embedded root and then planting the seedling, paper towel shred and all. I've even started some very small seeds that way, and have ended up planting an entire clump of seedling/paper towel shred into the cell or cup of starting mix. After they've grown a bit, I can more easily separate them and/or thin them by nipping some of them out.
Another thing I started doing last year, was nicking some seeds, especially hard-coated ones, with a fingernail clipper. I discovered this after I decided I wanted to start a large quantity of Heavenly Blue morning glories. Normally, I paper-sand the seed and then soak them to help them break dormancy, but doing this effectively with a large number of seeds seemed too time consuming, so I hit upon the idea of making a small nick in the edge of the seed coat with the fingernail clippers, just enough to allow moisture to penetrate into the embryo. The germination on the morning glories was almost 100%, and it was old seed. I went then and nicked all my squash seeds and other seeds with a tough coats - germination was greatly improved! I bet you could simply nip the dried green zinnia seeds to help them get going. Best to remove the petal, though if pre-germinating in the paper towels, simply because of the risk of introducing more bacteria with the rotting petal.
Gotta go, talk later - Alex


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

Your pregermination hints are most welcome. I should have thought of simply cutting out a piece of paper towel and planting it with the seed when a root becomes involved. I have been nicking some of my dry zinnia seeds, and all of my indoor green zinnia seeds, but I use an X-Acto knife with a curved blade. That lets me slice off just a bit of the edge of the seed. I also trim the seed where the petal attaches. If I want to extract the embryo, I slice the other edge, and the seed can open like a book to expose the embryo. Anyway, thanks for bringing pre-germination to my attention. I'll definitely start using it, using your tips about including part of the paper towel with the seed when it helps.

Speaking of paper towels, I once did some experiments with making my own seed tapes using paper towel strips and gluing the seed to the paper towel strip with a dot of Elmer's school glue. I also tried using toilet paper for something that disintegrated better in the soil. I abandoned those experiments as not worth the trouble, but I notice Parks sells seed tapes of several flowers. Their seed tapes are undoubtedly made by machine. Maybe I should try gluing seeds to string or thread when I really don't have anything to do.

Back to the scabiosa flowered zinnia thing. The scabi hybrids normally give you a nicely larger zinnia with the florets in the central area, like this one for example.

I guess we are calling that central area the "crest" because there was once a zinnia strain named "Howard's Crested" that was essentially a large scabiosa flowered variety. Howard's Crested has been extinct for many decades. Too bad, it would have been great for breeding with. But, anyway, crossing your crested hybrids together can result in strangely different stuff going on in the center of the bloom.

In that one, through the magic of genetic recombinations, the florets have morphed into petaloids. The petaloids have properties of both florets and petals, but are different from both, and the seeds attached to them are often rather un-zinnia-like, too. I think the petaloids qualify as yet another zinnia flower part, and they have potential for creating new looks in zinnia blooms.

More later,

ZM

This post was edited by zenman on Sun, Mar 2, 14 at 0:15


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

ZM - Back to the beginning of your former post - "are we in Alaska?" - Nah, just the middle of MI - Alaska is probably warmer right now! Seriously, this, overall, has been the worst winter in decades. We've had winters with colder temps (-21 is the coldest I've experienced), and winters with more snow (more like 3 ft deep), but this winter is the worst for being consistently cold, with no significant warm-ups, and no chance for the existing snow to melt. And here it is March, and they're still predicting overnight minus temps. When it occasionally warms up to 20 during the day, we all breathe a sigh of relief.
Yeah, I've looked at the seed tape idea and thought there would be some merit to it in the sense that it would keep lighter seeds (lettuce, carrots, etc) in place when the beds are watered or rained on right after planting. Many's the time I have inadvertently washed my seed down the furrows, ending up with clumps of carrots growing together where they have floated.
But I've never wanted the extra expense, and I guess I will have to pass on the idea of making my own. We have cats and the combination of cats + seeds + strips of paper and/or string + glue = disaster!

"The scabi hybrids normally give you a nicely larger zinnia with the florets in the central area" - how large are we talking? Are they almost as big as the cactus ones? I do like the bigger blooms. Oh, and off the subject, but how are you italicizing the segments you've taken out of my text? Are you writing up your script in a word doc first and italicizing it there? I can't see an option up there to change text while writing in the forum box itself.
That last pic with the petaloids is pretty cool. That would be an effect I'd want to work on. Well, hopefully, it won't be too much longer. Unless the poles have truly shifted and the scientists aren't telling us, as they are busy packing to move to the Arctic which is going to be the new California.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

Well, we had a light snow last night and it is 4 degrees here headed for a high of 8 degrees. It was minus 6 last night. So it is not exactly Spring here either, although I do have zinnias in bloom thanks to the indoor gardening thing.

" "The scabi hybrids normally give you a nicely larger zinnia with the florets in the central area" - how large are we talking? Are they almost as big as the cactus ones? I do like the bigger blooms."

I have had a lot of them as large as the "large" cactus zinnias, in the 5-inch class. So far none in the "giant" 6-inch class, but that might be possible by backcrossing to large examples of the Burpeeana Giants. Some of the Echinacea flowered specimens get quite a bit of diameter from extra long guard petals.

That one obviously had some Whirligig heritage. Some of the Whirligigs have extra slim petals, like this one.

The Whirligigs can transmit some of their petal shapes into their hybrids, as well as their bicolor coloration. It would be interesting to see how big you could get the scabi blooms by repeated backcrossing and repeated selection.

"Oh, and off the subject, but how are you italicizing the segments you've taken out of my text? Are you writing up your script in a word doc first and italicizing it there? I can't see an option up there to change text while writing in the forum box itself. "

No, I am not doing anything in an external text editor. Everything happens right here in GardenWeb's Message editing box. Fortunately GardenWeb allows limited use of HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) in their message text. That gives us quite a bit of control over the appearance of our text, lets us insert hyperlinks (like the Test forum link in the next paragraph), and it lets us insert pictures inline, rather than at the bottom of the message, as occurs when you use GardenWeb's image insertion feature. You can make some text italic by [i]enclosing it in HTML "i" commands [/i] which would have worked here if I had substituted angle brackets < and > instead the square brackets I used so as not to invoke HTML. HTML lets you control the text size, font, color and a lot of other attributes.

I use the HTML "blockquote" command to format my text in a narrower column than the standard forum text column. Newspapers have done a lot of research on text readability, and you may have noticed that most newspaper text columns are considerably narrower than the text columns here in this forum. I tend to be wordy, so I put my text in a narrower newspaper style column. GardenWeb has a Test forum where you can experiment. You can find out more about HTML online, and there are books on the subject.

More later,

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

ZM - Well, who says you can't teach an old dinosaur new tricks?

Don't expect any great leaps as yet, though - no jumping through fiery hoops or such like. (sigh - we have entered the new age, and there is no going back...)

Anyway, it was supposedly minus 17 out there this morning. I say supposedly, because our thermometer is located on our north porch right outside the livingroom window, and at present the porch is barricaded with a straw bale castle for the sake of the feral cat colony who are wintering there. Very long story as to why they are there, and not for this forum. But the happy news is that our temps read around 5 degrees - cold, but a significant difference from minus 17. The straw "castle" is probably keeping the house warmer as well. We heat with a wood stove (though we have a propane furnace - don't like it, gives me a headache - and costs more $$ as well), and have been through more than 4 full cords (12 face cords) worth of wood. Normally we would only have gone through 3 cords by this time.

Back to zinnias - sorry for the long aside. That one pic does look very echinacea-ish. Nice. What kind of bulbs have you got in your lighting system? I'm working with a very antiquated 8 ft double florescent fixture. In the beginning I was in the big city and could more easily locate the high intensity bulbs that were in it when I bought it from a friend. Since then I have had to settle for lesser strength bulbs - they work, but I know they're not close to being as effective. Now I am getting nervous that the ballast on this thing may be nearing its end. When that happens, I am definitely going to 4 ft fixtures, as this 8 ft is a pain in the a#@ to work around.
- Alex


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

[blockquote][blockquote]Hi Alex,

I am echoing my HTML in square brackets, so that you can see exactly what is going on in my message, HTML-wise. I use copy-and-paste to insert the blockquotes, and link information, but the rest of the HTML is easy enough to just type in.

We had about 3 inches of snow total yesterday, and it is cold here -- below zero last night, slightly above zero now, and heading for a "toasty" 17 today.

[I]What kind of bulbs have you got in your lighting system? I'm working with a very antiquated 8 ft double fluorescent fixture.[/I]

I use Phillips T8 4-foot fluorescent bulbs. The T8s draw 32 watts each, and they are more efficient than the old T12 bulbs. I buy them in boxes of 10 bulbs at Home Depot, because they cost much less that way. It costs almost twice as much to buy the bulbs individually. They are available in several "colors" and I prefer the cooler colors. Most of my bulbs are either Cool White or Arctic White, and both of those have a color temperature of 6500K (Kelvin). I have a few warm white bulbs in service, which have a color temperature of 3000K and have a very warm colored light, very similar to regular incandescent bulb light. Most of my bulbs are rated at 30,000 hours, which is about 8 years of "normal" usage. My bulbs typically outlast the ballasts in my economy grade fluorescent fixtures.

When a ballast "goes" in one of my fixtures, I simply replace the ballast with a better one. That is a fairly easy DIY job (do it yourself), but you will need a few tools from Home Depot -- primarily a combination tool that cuts wire, strips insulation from wire, and crimps wire connectors. You also need a Phillips screwdriver to disassemble and reassemble the fixture. As the British say, easy peasy.

My fixtures have always been the lowest priced Commercial Electric (a store brand of Home Depot) fluorescent shoplights. Back in 2004 you could get one for about $4, which was a tremendous bargain, because the replacement electronic ballast (Park SL15) sold for about the same price. The fixture was essentially free, and people snapped those up rapidly. I missed out on the $4 bargain, but did get a few fixtures at $6 before the price went to $8, where I bought most of mine. Since then, the fixtures have been redesigned to make them slimmer, (a big improvement in my opinion) and they now cost a bit over $12, which considering inflation, is still a great bargain. I highly recommend them.

Neither of our local Home Depots keep them in stock for some reason, so I buy them in lots of 4 from the online central Home Depot store. Buying them in lots of 4 qualifies you for free shipping. They don't include bulbs in the fixtures, but you can get the T8 bulbs locally.

In case you are interested, here is the link to the Home Depot store for those shoplights. Here comes a little more HTML, first the "fake" in square brackets and then the actual in angle brackets.

[a href="http://www.homedepot.com/p/Commercial-Electric-Basic-2-Lamp-Hanging-Fluorescent-White-ShopLight-CESL401-06/203725913" target="_blank"]Home Depot Shoplights[/a]Home Depot Shoplights

My growing units consist of chrome wire shelving with 2-foot by 4-foot shelves, about 6-feet high, and 4 of these shoplights light one of those shelves nicely. I am planning to light another shelf, so I will be buying four more of those shoplights for myself in the next day or two. They usually arrive in about a week. I already have the T8 bulbs on hand and some zinnia seedlings that would like to be re-potted to that shelf.

Well, I guess I will "throw in" another gratuitous picture of a scabi recombinant zinnia, just to show the HTML involved in doing that. First I will turn off this "newspaper column" thing, so that the picture can show in full width, and then restart the column formatting after the picture.[/blockquote][/blockquote]

[img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v608/MaineMan/550 Garden Web/100b5780_zps08de934b.jpg"]

[blockquote][blockquote]Well, that wasn't very hard to do. Copy and paste can save some tedious typing. The red in that zinnia is rather muted. I never cease to be amazed how many different colors and shades that zinnias can have. They must be capable of well over a hundred distinct colors. I think that one has some purple toward the base of the petals from Whirligig heritage.

Well enough for now. I will discuss the subject of "overdriving" fluorescent fixtures in another message. Modifying a fixture to overdrive it nearly doubles its brightness, but to get that increase in light output, you have to install another ballast. Each bulb gets the output from a two-bulb ballast. The bulbs (tubes) get almost blindingly bright, and distinctly warmer to the touch, and it probably decreases their life as well. But with 30,000 hours of life, they are a little bit like a cat "with nine lives". The ballasts are "loafing", because they are driving only one bulb instead of two.

Well, more later. I won't forget to "turn off" this newspaper column formatting now, as the very last step in this message. And before I Preview the message, prior to sending it, I will do a Ctrl-a Ctrl-c to copy the message into my Windows Clipboard as a safety measure to avoid losing the message in case my Internet connection or GardenWeb do a "hiccup".

ZM
(not associated with any product or vendor mentioned or linked)[/blockquote][/blockquote]


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

If you upgrade fixtures, ever, strongly consider biting the bullet and looking into a dimmable digital ballast that can handle either HPS or MH bulbs. There's a few new players in the lighting market that intent on driving the prices down into casual grower market, and having started with whole arrays of CFLs and fluorescent tubes that had been re-purposed from product photography into grow lights, and then swapping the whole mess for a SINGLE $150 lighting system that can kick out comparable wattage, and STILL be cranked up another 50%, I can't say enough about the difference. You really can't beat daylight spectrum tubes and CFLs for trays and trays of seedlings and small plants, but once you get them flowering and have committed a guest bedroom, I'm a huge believer in going big cost effectively :)

Incidentally, I haven't done extremely formal measurements, but I do have roughly similar wattages of HPS, Metal Halide, and CFL bulbs, and zinnias seem EXTREMELY sensitive to light color with their internode length. If you don't want them getting out of hand, you'll want bluer light.

My first generation of green seeds are almost to budding!

Meanwhile, the random seeds from last year are mostly pinks and light purples that I'm culling out. I've gotten a few interesting and pretty flowers though, that I'm actively crossing with dark purples to see what I can get out of them:

These have a yellow stripe that would look better on a darker purple flower that doesn't come through well in the picture.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Mister Guy,

" There's a few new players in the lighting market that intent on driving the prices down into casual grower market ... but once you get them flowering and have committed a guest bedroom, I'm a huge believer in going big cost effectively :) "

I am very interested in what new options might be opening up for indoor gardening under HID lights. Growing zinnias beyond the first bloom stage under fluorescent shoplights is a bit of a challenge for me.

Incidentally, I have partial confirmation regarding your observation that bluer light helps control internodal length. However, your budding seedling looks a bit "stretched". What sort of light has it been getting? Incidentally, it looks very well nourished -- no obvious symptoms of specific nutrient deficiencies.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

I have not heavily researched the company other than reading reviews on Amazon and buying a system, but I have been pleased with my system by Apollo Horticultural. I bought a kit with both bulb types, and a cool tube fixture for 150 on Amazon. I have over extended my own lights, because I have very little self control and have a LOT of plants sharing the light right now. The second round of zinnias got shoved over to the corner until the previous generation gets culled and the sunflowers stop hogging the main light. The room they are in isn't ventilated well, so I turned the lights down for the hot weather we just had. Now of course we get an ice storm....


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi ZM and MG, can we say overload?! Thanks truly for all the info; I’ll make note of it for later. I’m not anxious to have to replace my present system, but it has been in use for more than 2 decades of garden seasons with me, and no telling how long before that with my friend, so the time may come sooner rather than later.
And to test whether I am using the proper HTML code, here are two pics of my pre-germination set-up. The first one shows the paper towel with pepper seeds before folding, and off to the side the already folded packets.
 photo pre-germinatingeggplantsandpeppers_zpscc55cd69.jpg
The second pic is of the seeds slipped into the grocery store polybag, and set under the light.
 photo pre-germinatingeggplantsandpeppers2_zpsda547a31.jpg
This go-round I only started the peppers and eggplants. The delphiniums are in the fridge, also in paper toweling.
- Alex

Well, I see my blockquote attempt didn't make it, though I have succeeded in posting the pics. Excuse my ignorance, but am I actually supposed to put the words blockquote in those arrow brackets?
Whoa - wait a minute...it is indented, but only on the left side. I can see that in comparison with what I'm writng now. What's that about?


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

This was because of the pics, wasn't it? They're too big maybe. My text after I ended the blockquote is out of bounds, I see. Well, here's the next test: I will attempt blockquote but without the pics.

Success.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Overload is definitely a problem, but it's easy to creep up once you have a couple different full size plants. They seem so small when you plant a 36 cell tray, but 36 adults take up some room ;-) And once you start sliding down the hill, may as well jump right?


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

MG - Tell me about it! And I do so hate to throw healthy seedlings on to the compost pile. But over the years, and especially within the last 5 or so, I have hardened my heart, and made the cull. However, this hybridizing project will put a whole new wrinkle into the fabric. When I haven't seen the bloom yet, how can I bear to throw away any potential beauties? That's part of the reason why I was questioning so closely about how one knows if it's ones own cross or a self or insect-cross.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

"When I haven't seen the bloom yet, how can I bear to throw away any potential beauties? That's part of the reason why I was questioning so closely about how one knows if it's ones own cross or a self or insect-cross."

Yes, when you have been cross-pollinating your zinnias yourself, all of your seedlings are potential beauties. Or, in some cases, "beasties". I usually try to get my seedlings to the first bloom phase before I cull them. I usually impose some pretty high standards at the first cull, and I will discard and remove 90% or more at that time, leaving more room for my favorites to develop.

Like I said, if you have been applying pollen to some stigmas and they respond by quickly shriveling away within a day or two, you can be reasonably certain that they were fertilized by you, and not by an insect. I don't resort to isolating my zinnia blooms with "hairnets" even when there are a lot of bees about, because the bees aren't the least bit interested in pollinating any zinnia stigmas. The bees are just after nectar and/or pollen (which is a highly nutritious food for them). I save the hairnets for bird protection of my choicest seeds.

My indoor zinnia project has been successful in producing a nice supply of F2 recombinant seed that I can plant in-ground outdoors this Spring. I am currently making cross-pollinations on my second generation of indoor zinnias, and that feels pretty good. No bees to worry about in here.

Incidentally, I do cull my indoor zinnias, but since they are seed producers of known good crosses, I don't cull them nearly as severely as my outdoor zinnias.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Edited to remove a duplicate post. My internet connection via HughsNet has been "acting up" again.

This post was edited by zenman on Wed, Mar 5, 14 at 11:41


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

ZM - I may not have a choice but to cull some before bloom, just so I have room for everything else. I've got alot of veggies and some other flowers that will be sharing the space - assuming I do start some of my zinnias indoors in April to give them a headstart.
And on that note, I already have a few eggplant and pepper seeds germinated out of the batch in the pics above - and so it begins! - Alex


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

"I may not have a choice but to cull some before bloom, just so I have room for everything else."

It's OK to cull seed packet seedlings, because you don't have much invested in them. If I have a lot of tomato seed, I plant 4 seeds in each little 3.25-inch square pot and even if all four come up (as is frequently the case) I pluck out the weaker seedlings and save the strongest seedling. Survival of the fittest. And even for my hybrid zinnias, if a seedling is obviously defective, I will cull it.

Last Spring I had a star-tipped mutant in my commercial "white cactus flowered" patch and, because it apparently did have some different genes, I crossed it with a lot of my breeder zinnias. I have shown it before, but this is a picture of the original mutant.

Its genes are expressing themselves in many of the crosses involving it. This is a current indoor picture of a cross between it and a tubular petaled breeder.

This F1 hybrid isn't spectacular, but I have been saving a significant number of seeds (over a thousand) from such star-tipped F1 hybrids in my indoor gardening project, and I will be looking forward to seeing what the star-tipped genes can do in various F2 recombinations involving them. I had qualms about such a large number of crosses involving a kind of ugly looking mutation, but I am currently encouraged that it was "an ugly duckling" that could turn into "a beautiful swan".

ZM


This post was edited by zenman on Thu, Mar 6, 14 at 10:55


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hello everyone. Glad to see some new people interested in zinnias - welcome aboard!
My own zinnia adventure of 2014 will be beginning soon here in Missouri, and I hope to share some wonderful pictures with everyone over the summer. Previously, I saved all of the seeds from zinnias "that I thought looked good" into a single envelope. I also saved the seeds from the zinnias that I didn't much care for, just for fun. I will be planting a little of everything this year, and I'm really excited at the prospect of getting more zinnias that I will enjoy.

Last year, I direct sowed the zinnias into a raised bed, and that left me waiting well into the summer before I had a single bloom. This year, as soon as my onions have hardened off, there will be room under my light dedicated to a tray of zinnias. These will be headed into the garden at the same time as the tomatoes, and they should bloom around May. After that, when the chance of frost is gone, I'll be starting a lot more in trays outside to be spaced properly in a patch of soil all to their own. This seems to work the best for me, after trying a lot of methods.

I really enjoyed reading everyone's posts over the winter, and glad a lot of you guys are growing them indoors as well. It takes something special to grow a full sun ornamental during the dark months. Maybe we're just a little bit crazy.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Telescody -
After that, when the chance of frost is gone, I'll be starting a lot more in trays outside to be spaced properly in a patch of soil all to their own.

I'd already been thinking I should do more succession planting this year; this sounds like maybe a better way to do it than direct seed. I suppose I haven't in the past simply because I reach the psychological point where my fixed goal is to get everything in the ground, then it is: GARDEN. Crazy, I know. It's a mindset. I mean, it's not like the work ends there - on the contrary, the work really kicks in then! But it's such a long nit-picky process up till then: ordering the seeds (or testing the ones saved to see if I need to order any), pre-germinating the seeds, planting them under lights, transplanting, transplanting again, transplanting AGAIN, moving to the greenhouse, hauling trays in and out of the greenhouse during the hardening-off, planting outside, covering everything wildly when frost threatens - which it usually does at least once after I've planted things out. By that time, I'm just wanting to be done with that portion of the process. But I can change. See - I know how to do blockquotes and italics now. Ha!
ZM - looking forward to seeing the new star-tipped mutants.
- Alex
BTW - my pre-germinated peppers and eggplants are sprouting like crazy after only a few days! That's one of the definite advantages to pre-germination.


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Telescody,

" I really enjoyed reading everyone's posts over the winter, and glad a lot of you guys are growing them indoors as well. It takes something special to grow a full sun ornamental during the dark months. Maybe we're just a little bit crazy. "

I think in my case, more than a little. But I am really enjoying the indoor zinnia growing. It really raises your spirit when it is frigid and snowy outdoors to be able to cross-pollinate my very own hybrid zinnias under bright fluorescent lights. And I am excited by the prospects of some of my recent crosses involving mutants. This tubular hybrid shows some star-tipped hints on the tips of its tubular petals.

It is basically an F1 hybrid between a tubular specimen and my star-tipped mutant (designated as G13) and although the star-tipped effect is very subtle in this F1 hybrid, I am hoping that recombinations in the F2s from its seeds will result in something more interesting.

We will be looking forward to your zinnia pictures this year. It sounds like you plan to "up your zinnia game" this year. I am hoping you get some interesting zinnias.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

"I'd already been thinking I should do more succession planting this year; this sounds like maybe a better way to do it than direct seed."

I have never done indoor planting as a substitute for in-ground planting, except for a few high value seeds that I didn't want to subject to the risks of in-ground planting, such as cutworms, moles, etc. There is a lot less labor involved with in-ground planting. No pots to wash, no checking everyday to see that they have enough water, no transplanting to do. In-ground zinnias aren't as "needy" as indoor zinnias.

However, I am a fan of succession planting in-ground. By making succession planting, your zinnias don't all come into bloom at once. By staggering their bloom times, you can give each one more individual care with respect to culling, labeling, cross-pollinating, etc. I have a fairly large garden and I can get swamped with tasks that need to be done if I try to start everything at once.

We are supposed to get some warmish weather next week. I am getting the feeling that Spring isn't far away. I did some cleanup work in the garden a couple of days ago. I removed some dead zinnias from last year and adjusted the height of the hoops on one of my low tunnels.

More later.

ZM


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

ZM,

I did some cleanup work in the garden a couple of days ago.

I can't even get into the garden! There's a heavy pile of snow/ice gluing the gate shut. Can't walk comfortably in there anyway - snow's too deep. But we are experiencing a gradual warm-up, too. Finally.
Meanwhile, the garden light table got fired up for the first time this season over my eggplant and pepper seedlings. :)
- Alex


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RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi Alex,

" I can't even get into the garden! There's a heavy pile of snow/ice gluing the gate shut. "

Clearly you have a much more arctic climate in Michigan than we here in Kansas. The top few inches of our soil have thawed, although it is still hard frozen a few inches down. I am hoping that our soil will thaw some more this week, because there is an area of my garden that has a lot of rocks in it that I want to rake out before planting it. Right now the rake teeth just sort of "bounce off" of that still frozen layer.

Incidentally, you have mastered the "blockquote" thing quite well. There are a couple more HTML things that are easy to use, and handy sometimes. They are "b" for bold and "u" for underline. In these examples, as before, I will use square brackets to indicate the HTML, and let angle brackets, which you don't see, cause the actual execution of the HTML. Sometimes, [b] if you want something to stand out a bit [/b], you can use the "b" command, and [u]if you really want to emphasize something[/u], you can use "u" to underline it. You can [b][u]combine the two[/u][/b] if you want, or [I][b][u]use all three [/u][/b][/I].

There is another HTML command, the "font" command, that is somewhat more complicated, and somewhat more capable. You can use it to [font color="red"] change the color of your text,[/font] but I don't usually have a need for colored text. Incidentally, there are an amazing number of colors at your disposal. I just picked red because it is a simple example. You may or may not have noticed that I used the "font" command to change the typeface of this paragraph, up to this point. I used the [font face="Georgia"] command. Most, perhaps all, browsers let you set a default typeface, and this forum itself probably controls its fonts as well. I sometimes enjoy diddling with details, but I hope the phrase "the Devil is in the details" doesn't apply to me.

Back to the weather, we are having a nice sunshiny day here. I know your weather will improve and sometime this Summer, when I am sweltering in three-digit heat, you will be much more comfortable. More later.

ZM


 o
RE: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 23

Hi all,

Since this message thread now has over 100 messages, and it is getting a big long and slow to load, I am starting a new part over at It can be fun to breed your own zinnias - Part 24. I look forward to seeing you all over there.

ZM


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