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Marigolds and Zinnias
February 23, 2015

I'm sitting there looking out the window, when this bird comes flying in.

Right onto the deck rail, near a platform feeder.

A beautiful female Cooper's hawk.

A young adult.

Just sitting there like she owns the place.

Feathers fluffed due to the extreme cold we've been experiencing.

I'm sure looking for an easy meal.

A photo opp.

I get the camera and snap a couple pictures.

I zoom in for a close up or two.

What a beautiful bird.

Then I notice what looks like fresh blood all over her bill.

Sure enough, even a tiny piece of meat still hanging.

I guess she was still hungry.

I have issues with these guys.

I know it is all part of nature, but I hate the idea I am setting the buffet table for them.

There are at least three Cooper's that attack the birds around here.

This young adult female, and adult male, and a juvenile female are what I have seen.

You can tell the females from the male birds of prey.

Females are typically much larger.

upto to 1/3 larger than their male counterparts.

Adults are darker in color, and have rusty colored breasts.

Mature adults also have more of a blood red colored eyes.

More pictures at the bottom.

The calendar says it is the last week of February.

How come the weather is still mid January?

This last cold spell has run far and deep.

Still, it is time to think more seriously about gardening and what to plant.

For many of us, it also means seed starting.

To lighten things up a bit, I figured I would write the next few letters (God willing), on some of the annuals we grow and favor.

Some of the more popular ones.

I'm attempting to give you a bit of history on them, and a few tidbits for the newer gardeners.

Most gardeners haven't a clue, but most of our annuals are non native.

This week is on Marigolds and Zinnias.



Marigolds belong to the genus Tagetes, which contains some 40 species, all annuals.

All are native to the Western Hemisphere and occur naturally from the Southwestern United States down through Central and South America into Argentina.

More species are found in Mexico than anywhere else.

All are annuals.

The common name in English, "marigold", is derived from "Mary's gold", a name first applied to a similar plant native to Europe, Calendula officinalis, also called Pot marigolds.

Marigolds, native to the New World and sacred flowers of the Aztecs,

The Aztecs bred the marigold for increasingly large blooms.

It is told that in the 1500's, native marigold seeds were taken from the Aztecs by early Spanish explorers to Spain.

The marigolds were cultivated in Spain and grown in monastery gardens.

From Spain, marigold seeds were transported to France and northern Africa.

African Marigolds (Tagetes erecta):

The taller marigolds, now called African-American, became naturalized in North Africa before making their way back to the Americas.

French Marigolds (T. patula):

The smaller plants were a morph that French growers cultivated into a local favorite (French Marigolds).

Several hundred years after their initial journey from the Americas to Europe and Africa, marigolds were introduced to American gardeners.

Coming back home again, a reunion of sorts did not happen until shortly after the Revolutionary War.

Just one of many plants shipped to the young country.

Now you know why these flowers are often called French and African Marigolds, and a bit of history.

Marigolds are a garden favorite, as they continue to bloom as long as they are deadheaded and require minimal care.

A mid season feeding gives the plant a boost to carry on till a killing frost.

They attract bees and butterflies and have few natural pests.

Today the marigold is one of the most popular annuals grown in North American gardens.

It's only fitting that the marigold
would find the breeding emphasis and popularity back in the Americas, its center of origin.


Zinnias are true American natives found in the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Central America.

Zinnias are named after Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759), a German professor of botany who grew the plant after it was "discovered" in the New World and brought back to Europe.

There are about 17 different species of annuals and perennials, with the best known being the common annual zinnia (Zinnia elegans) from which plant breeders have created a spectacular array of cultivars.

Zinnias have no major insect problems, but are susceptible to mildew, which causes foliage to discolor and plants to lose vigor and sometimes wilt.

Mildew problems are caused by wet and/or high humid conditions.

Minimize mildew problems by not over watering zinnia plants, planting in well-drained soil, and watering plants at soil level to avoid wetting foliage.

Also avoid overcrowding plantings, which decreases air circulation around zinnias.

Zinnias have featured strongly in American gardens for many decades.

There are two perennial zinnias native to the Southwest: desert zinnia (Z. acerosa) and plains zinnia (Z. grandiflora).

Desert zinnia is a low, spreading plant that bears 1-inch white, daisy-like flowers.

Its narrow leaves are evergreen, creating a good ground cover.

It prefers well-drained soil that is low in organic content.

Plains zinnia, with a similar growth habit, has yellow flowers.

It is more tolerant of cold, but it can be difficult to establish.

Zinnias will reward you with bundles of colorful blooms from early summer until the first frost, provided that you give them rich, loamy soil in a sunny spot.

Don't over-water

Provide good air circulation.

Zinnias like hot, dry summers.

Cut them frequently to encourage branching and to prolong blooming.

Again, a mid season feeding will encourage growth and blooming.

Resist the urge to line plants up singly as an edging; zinnias are more appealing (to us and to butterflies) as an irregular mass of bright colors.

Because each plant forms many side branches, weeds aren't likely to be too troublesome in the zinnia patch.

Be sure to leave plenty of room for your flowers to grow.

(Giant Swallowtail on Zinnia.)

Marigolds and Zinnias are recommended for beginning gardeners and for a child's short attention span.

These flowers have rather large seeds (easy for little hands), germinate quickly, and grow quick.

A child can watch his/her handiwork from planting to flowering in a matter of weeks.

They are undemanding annuals that simply need full sun, warmth, and well-drained soil rich in organic matter.

Direct sow or transplanted into the garden.

Space taller varieties about 12 to 18 inches apart. Space shorter growing varieties about 6 to 8 inches apart.

Favorites of butterflies and bees, so plant several.

You may also spot a hummingbird hovering over a flower.

They aren't after nectar, but gnats and other tiny insects that hang out in the bright flowering heads.

Marigolds and Zinnias are great for seed savors, as the seeds are rather large and easy to handle.

Make sure the seeds heads are dry before you store them.

Another fun project to do with young kids.

We all want to share our passions with the next generations.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

"To get the full value of joy you must have somebody to divide it with."

Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) 1835-1910 American Author and Humorist

How profound is that quote?

To get the full measure, you must share.


Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

2 John 1:12

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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