increasing the zinnia palette, with siskiyou seeds’ don tipping


WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE about zinnias? Natural seed farmer and breeder Don Tipping of Siskiyou Seeds and I each vote an emphatic “sure” in favor of constructing zinnias part of each backyard 12 months.

However what goes into creating the variety of zinnia colours and kinds and sizes? And what are some new trying ones that you simply would possibly need to attempt in 2024?

Don Tipping based Siskiyou Seeds, a household run farm-based seed firm, in 1997. His farm with a view is situated at 2,000 ft of elevation within the Siskiyou Mountains of southwest Oregon, and has near 1,000 kinds of greens, herbs, and flowers in its assortment. As if that weren’t sufficient, Don creates a YouTube channel of how-to movies and a long-running weblog, and hosts a number of on-farm trainings for gardeners and farmers annually.

We talked about that beloved annual flower, the zinnia (that’s ‘Queeny Lime Orange,’ above), and extra.

Plus: Remark within the field close to the underside of the web page to enter to win a $25 present certificates for Siskiyou Seeds.

Learn alongside as you take heed to the Feb. 5, 2024 version of my public-radio present and podcast utilizing the participant under. You may subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).

zinnias and extra, with don tipping

 

 

Margaret Roach: Winter! However I suppose it’s seed-selling season, so most likely not winter, not quiet, for you.

Don Tipping: Yeah.

Margaret: You and I not too long ago collaborated on a narrative in “The New York Instances,” a backyard column on rising onions and leeks, one thing you taught me the right way to do virtually a decade in the past, the right way to develop them from seed. And so I’ll give a hyperlink to our former dialog, for individuals who need to get began on these earlybird crops. However zinnias: We share this ardour, as I stated within the introduction, for zinnias, sure?

Don: Yeah, very a lot so. It looks as if form of an apparent factor to love, like having vanilla ice cream be your, or I imply chocolate be your favourite kind of ice cream. However I believe as a result of they’ve a lot potential by way of range of flower kinds and colours, I simply maintain coming again to my intrigue with them.

Margaret: Yeah. I imply, I’ve all the time identified them since I first gardened, and but I by no means knew ones just like the sizes and shapes and no matter that I’m seeing as of late. And so, I discover, I see on some catalog web sites that there are some hybrid zinnias, however all of yours, the entire Siskiyou Seeds’ kinds of all the pieces, are open-pollinated, sure?

Don: Appropriate, yeah. And I believe it’s troublesome; folks need to scale back issues down into binaries of open-pollinated or hybrid. However the reality of the matter is, is that populations are always hybridizing, and that’s the place Dr. John Navazio taught me: to make use of the time period proprietary F1 hybrids when referring to these business ones. Whereas zinnias, specifically, as a result of they’ve what are referred to as leaping genes [laughter], they’re transposons, the molecular-biologist time period for them. However principally, that is how epigenetics present up in flowers, of genes that may be turned on or off.

So, it’s actually troublesome to stabilize a number of the distinctive variants of zinnias. You actually need to develop 1000’s of crops to see that one-in-a-thousand particular person. And simply since you save seed from it doesn’t essentially imply that you simply’ve stabilized it and people traits will proceed to precise in subsequent generations.

Margaret: Proper. So, the mother or father plant, all its infants gained’t be an identical, any greater than I don’t appear like my mother and father [laughter].

Don: Yeah, precisely.

Margaret: To simplify issues. So, what number of years because you first tinkered with a zinnia, because you let an entire inhabitants develop out in a subject someplace at your home and stated, “Ooh, I actually like that one over there. I’m going to avoid wasting seed from that one.” How way back, do you suppose?

Don: Properly, it was form of an evolution. We used to develop zinnia seed yearly for Seeds of Change [catalog] in massive portions, the place we’d develop 5 or 10 kilos of seed. And once we are doing that, we’re usually rising a single colour. So something that deviated from that, we’d truly destroy these crops, pull them out by the roots. So then ultimately, in about 2009, is once I started to comprehend that, oh, these distinctive ones, that may be one thing value saving seed from and really starting to nudge it in that path, as a result of similar to my analogy with ice cream, you will get vanilla and chocolate anyplace.

However distinctive varieties, I believe that’s actually the bread and butter for these small regional seed corporations like Siskiyou Seeds—not providing the same old sort, however having distinctive varieties. Yeah, and it retains it fascinating for me, as a result of I’ve been doing this 30 years, so I’ve bought to search out new methods to maintain it thrilling.

Margaret: New adventures. First, there have been, many years in the past, I don’t even keep in mind the names of the zinnias, after which the ‘Benary’s Giants’ [above] turned a factor. However these days, these Queeny Lime ones, those with the phrase queen in them-

Don: Precisely.

Margaret: … are simply so beautiful, and so they form of appeared and all people, lots of people began promoting them. I can’t discover any data on who bred them or the place they started. I see “the breeder” known as simply “the breeder” in varied catalog descriptions in varied locations, however I don’t see who it was [laughter]. So, that’s been form of one of many newest in ages.

However you’ve gone off in a path; yours, as you described, a few of them appear like “undersea creatures,” and simply a few of them come off form of cactus-shaped flowers and get even wilder and crazier. Yeah? [Below, a couple of flowers from his ‘Tidepool Mix.’]

Don: Properly, I believe you’re truly shining a lightweight on, once you describe a few of these new varieties that present up within the huge mainstream catalogs, on a little bit of the underbelly of the largely Dutch flower-seed commerce. And I can’t confirm this, however I need to begin trying and poking round. I’ve heard that they use irradiation to induce polyploidy and novelty in a whole lot of flower variants, as a result of florists are all the time searching for the brand new factor, and genetics tends to throw out the off varieties. The mutants have a tendency to not categorical readily.

However by way of actually irradiating or doing novel breeding applied sciences like cell fusion and cisgenics, the mainstream trade has been tinkering with issues. So, it’s totally different than the standard GMO.

We’re not doing that right here. I’m simply actually combing the fields searching for novelty, and we take little ribbons of surveying tape the place I truly use jewellery luggage which are like breathable mesh.

So, if I’ve a big inhabitants, let’s say 1,000 crops or extra, and I observed a person, zinnias are within the Asteraceae, in order that they’re associated to calendula, sunflowers, lettuce, marigolds, chrysanthemum, asters, that kind of factor. And that they broadly open-pollinate, and so they have two forms of flowers in them. They’ve disc flowers and ray flowers. And in case you’ve ever held calendula seed in your hand, you may actually see this, or checked out a zinnia, as an example, up shut and see how the disc florets have little yellow flowers that in and of themselves are flowers, which have each female and male flower components and might pollinate themselves or be cross-pollinated. Whereas the ray florets, what we have a look at as petals.

Margaret: Petals, proper.

Don: … are literally showy bracts, to make use of the botanical time period. These don’t have stamens, in order that they don’t make pollen, however they will obtain pollen. So, once you have a look at the calendula seed, again to that instance, you see what appear like little grey fishhooks, after which bigger buff-colored fishhooks. The little ones are from the disc florets, and the bigger ones are from the ray florets. This differentiation is much less pronounced in zinnias, however in case you fastidiously type out your zinnia seed, you may determine which seeds got here from the disc florets-

Margaret: Wow.

Don: … whereas people who got here from the ray florets.

Margaret: Cool.

Don: So, each time a pollination factor occurs, you might have an entire myriad of, it might be self-pollinating. So, I’m explaining this to explain the jewellery bag. Why use that? As a result of then you already know that complete plant is self-pollinated, or that flower, and that’s assuming you bought to it earlier than the florets on the disc opened up. So, you must exit within the morning—when it’s nonetheless form of cool out and there’s dew—and search for flowers which are just a little on the immature facet, after which put the bag over it after which let it mature. You’re enormously lowering the quantity of viable seed once you do that, however it’s a method to start to slim down within the path you need to go.

Margaret: Oh, O.Okay. So, you’re not irradiating, you’re placing jewellery luggage on it.

Don: Yeah.

Margaret: So that you’re making observations and placing ribbons on them and placing jewellery luggage on them [laughter] and so forth, and form of steering the inhabitants, in case you can, in a path that appeals to you. And the assortment of zinnias that you simply promote within the Siskiyou catalog, I imply, you might have some actually enjoyable ones. You do have a type of Queeny varieties, I overlook which one you might have. And one other combine that I’ve all the time favored, the ‘Jazzy Combine,’ which I believe is so well-named as a result of it’s bought such enjoyable form of colours in it. However you might have one which I’ve by no means truly grown, referred to as ‘Pink Spider?’ [below]. Inform us about that one. That’s fairly totally different. It seems like a species plant to me, that one. Are you aware what I imply? It looks-

Don: Oh, completely.

Margaret: …very outdated, back-to-the-roots form of genetics. Yeah.

Don: Properly, you talked about the ‘Jazzy Combine,’ and that’s truly a special species from the standard zinnias that individuals develop. So, the standard zinnia that most individuals are accustomed to, the Latin identify is Zinnia, the genus, and elegans is the species.

Whereas the genus for the ‘Jazzy Combine’ is Zinnia, as soon as once more, the species identify is haageana, so it’s truly a special species. All of them originated in central Mexico, the place it was principally a wildflower. And so, the ‘Pink Spider’ is, I believe, actually extra of a progenitor of contemporary zinnias.

Margaret: Isn’t it like tenuifolia or one thing? It’s like an entire species into itself.

Don: Precisely, yeah. So, the crops are extra diminutive. They solely develop 18 to 24 inches tall. They’re all pink. I’ve by no means seen one other one which’s a special colour. They usually don’t are likely to thrive as a lot right here, and maybe we stay within the mountains, so perhaps it’s our cool nights, whereas subtropical central Mexican highlands is a special local weather than Oregon. However nonetheless, I like rising them only for their novelty. And the petals are usually thinner, so I believe that’s the place the identify spider comes from.

You may consider dahlias, that are additionally native to central Mexico. And in case you have a look at the seed-grown varieties, you get to see form of the parental kinds that gave beginning to all of the totally different fashionable ones that have been finally hybrids, after which folks went to tuber copy.

Margaret: Yeah. You’ve got some enjoyable with them. I imply, you might have, talking of ones which are within the Zinnia elegans, the extra anticipated species or extra frequent species, you chose from one that individuals might know, the ‘Peppermint Stick,’ to make one that you simply name, I believe ‘Firestarter?’ Is that proper?

Don: Yeah. Properly, this began, Frank Morton and I, we had a dialog of, I simply requested him like, “Hey, the ‘Peppermint Stick’ is 2 totally different colours.” And actually three, there’s form of yellow and pink, after which white and pink, however there’s additionally form of a cream and pink in there, which I believe is an middleman one.

Margaret: Yeah, and we must always say Frank is a seed farmer, Wild Backyard Seed. Sure, yeah.

Don: Yeah, thanks for mentioning that. And he’s undoubtedly a pricey pal and mentor of me.

Margaret: And so many.

Don: And an early pioneer.

Margaret: He’s wonderful. Yeah.

Don: And yeah, examine them out earlier than, I believe they’re inching in the direction of retirement, so form of get it whereas the getting’s good. However we have been joking round. I used to be like, “Hey, have you ever ever considered stabilizing one of many colours?” And he was doing the white and pink. So I used to be like, “Properly, I’ll do the yellow and pink.”

So, we use greenhouses typically if we need to stabilize one thing that’s actually engaging to pollinators, with the pondering that we will management pollination just a little bit extra. So, the ‘Firestarter’ is admittedly simply saving seed from essentially the most yellow and pink ones.

And I need to point out a extremely enjoyable factor, and perhaps you’ve observed this in zinnias or different flowers, is that selection specifically tends to supply what are referred to as chimeras. And you can too see leaping genes in motion. So, in my choice of that selection, I await the primary flower to occur, and I solely need to save the crops that produce yellow-and-red-striped ones, that actually appear like both yellow petals that any individual took a paintbrush and painted a stripe of pink on them, or in a roundabout way.

So then, I rip out all those which are white and pink, after which I minimize off all of the flowers of the yellow-red ones, that first flower, as a result of it might have cross pollinated with the white and pink ones. Then, I let all of them flower, and what I’ve seen occur is ones that produce all pink flowers. And earlier than I discovered this, I might minimize these off or rip these crops out. However then, I started to note, like wow, on the identical plant, they will produce all pink and yellow-and-red-striped. And what that’s, is the plant doesn’t distribute development hormones and its genetic potential equally.

Margaret: Oh.

Don: Identical to we don’t appear like our siblings, regardless that we technically have the identical genetics. And the opposite factor it’ll do is chimeras, which is, I don’t know if that’s a botanical time period or simply within the flower commerce, one the place the flower is principally half pink and half one other colour, like on this occasion, red- and yellow-striped. I’ve tried saving seeds from this, however I don’t suppose chimeras is one thing that you could pin down genetically. It simply has to do with development hormones and transposons, and the way genetic potential is distributed in a given plant relying on environmental stresses.

Margaret: Yeah, it’s fairly cool. So, that’s a enjoyable one, ‘Firestarter.’

A few of yours are these mixes, otherwise you typically name them remixes. You’ve got one that you simply name the ‘Dreamin’ Remix,’ as an example. And that was already a cross of elegans, and haageana.

Don: Yeah.

Margaret: That was already a cross of elegans and haageana, that another person did, at Peace Seedlings, Dylana Kapuler. So that you then have a look at the inhabitants and you retain going, yeah? You would possibly maintain going?

Don: Yeah. And this may’t… Possibly you could possibly describe it as a backcross, so it’s a hybrid between these two zinnia species, then backcross to the ‘Cactus Combine,’ and attempting to get my objective with that. And I believe gardeners like novelty, and I attempt to be clear in our catalog to not count on each plant to exhibit the identical traits. However you’re certain to, it’s form of like, I don’t know, Cracker Jacks, you’re going to get a special shock in each field or one thing.

That my objective is to supply one that appears just like the ‘Dreamin’ Combine,’ that Dylana took over from her father, Dr. Alan Kapuler, of that cross. They usually’ve by no means disclosed it’s a cross, however I’ve grown sufficient zinnias the place that’s my hunch, due to that trait that you simply see within the ‘Jazzy Combine’ or the ‘Persian Carpet’ kind zinnias.

I need to get one which has that fascinating form of bullseye sample of various colours on each petal, however with the quilled petal form of the cactus varieties. So, we’ll see. There’s no assure. I believe typically when you might have a breeding goal, it’s truly counter to the reproductive success of the plant [laughter], and the one means you study that’s by way of trial and error.

Margaret: Yeah. I really like the identify of 1 that you’ve your providing that you simply bred, you name it ‘Loopy Legs’ [above]. Inform us about ‘Loopy Legs,’ talking of this form of cactusy…

Don: Properly, in order that began by rising massive quantities of the ‘Cactus Combine,’ which has a quilled petal form, which the botanical time period would both be revolute, like rolled outwards on itself, or rolled inwards on itself (which is involute).

And I started to note ones that had these different traits. One truly has a botanical identify referred to as fimbriated, the place the petals don’t finish at a tidy level, however are extra splayed out.

After which I observed one the place the petals themselves, as an alternative of rising straight, have been form of squiggled. And my preliminary breeder’s identify for that was Frippertronics, after Robert Fripp, who was the guitarist for the form of ’60s, ’70s progressive rock band King Crimson. However my seed workers, who’re all below 40 was like, “No, that doesn’t work.”

Margaret: “No, Grandpa.” They stated, “No. Grandpa.” Proper? [Laughter.]

Don: Yeah, completely. Properly, and I take these surveying ribbons and I write with a Sharpie on there simply so I can maintain observe of all these items. So, I used to be like, “O.Okay., you’re going to be Frippertronic,” as a result of he invented the primary digital tape-loop music, simply one thing novel. So, ‘Loopy Legs’ was a extra descriptive identify. ‘Loopy Legs’ is a fuchsia one. I’ve cream-colored model in growth and an orange one in growth and a yellow one. However these aren’t stabilized but.

Margaret: Properly, they’re enjoyable and wild as is your one I discussed earlier than, the one which form of seems like undersea anemones, the ‘Tidepool Combine.’

Don: Yeah.

Margaret: So, earlier than we take up on a regular basis with zinnias,  I need to simply ask you about what else are you enthusiastic about for the time being? As a result of it sounds such as you’re nonetheless taking part in with zinnias. Are there different issues that you simply’re…

Don: Properly, yearly we decide three or 4 issues to do selection trials on, and that permits us right here on the farm to essentially use the farm not only for seed manufacturing, but additionally as a analysis and growth facility. So, those we’re doing for that this 12 months are radicchios, as a result of there’s an entire pattern beginning there and we simply need to study as a lot as we will to develop as a lot range. After which we’ll provide that blend as a seed crop for 2025, which feels bizarre to say that.

After which, we’re additionally doing carrots, however much like zinnias, not many individuals develop China asters, however they’re simply as straightforward to develop and I believe simply as spectacular. And I believe it might be one of many subsequent huge issues for house gardeners and small-scale farmer-florists.

Margaret: I believe these are, what Callistephus, is that the genus? Callistephus, I believe.

Don: Yeah.

Margaret: Yeah. They usually’re stunning flowers. And talking of issues that may come in numerous flower kinds, they will appear like a giant double chrysanthemum [below, ‘Tower Chamois’ China aster] or they will look ethereal and, I don’t even know the right way to say with simply, I don’t know, simply so effusive, a few of them.

Don: Precisely.

Margaret: In order that they actually, they are often fairly totally different.

Don: Yeah. And I’m simply now pondering they might make a wonderful companion, like some cool variant combine with the ‘Tidepool Combine’ zinnia. And perhaps for some future Octopus’ Backyard assortment or one thing.

Margaret: Oh, I really like that. The Octopus’s Backyard assortment. Yeah, plenty of tentacles [laughter].

Don: Yeah.

Margaret: ‘Loopy Legs.’ A lot of ‘Loopy Legs.’ Yeah. Good. O.Okay. So, these are three issues: radicchio, carrots, China asters.

Don: Yeah. After which, one other factor form of, much like the zinnias that I’ve been engaged on, is a striped kernel candy corn that I name ‘Starburst Choose.’ And also you see this trait in flour corn, some Native communities name it chin-mark corn, named after the cultural custom of tattooing girls in a number of the Northwest tribes. However principally, on the stage of consuming, I’ve this selection in growth that could be a candy corn, and once you eat it, every kernel seems like any individual took a small paintbrush and drew just a little starburst of pink on it.

And I’m 85 p.c of the way in which there of getting a range that, so far as I do know, has by no means existed earlier than, and I don’t know why, as a result of it wasn’t that tough to create. So, that’s thrilling. And we provide seed of that. We all the time promote out. It’s very restricted amount proper now.

Margaret: Huh. Fascinating. You’ve completed quite a bit through the years with flour corns, those as in you’ll make meal or flour out of them, not flower corns.

Don: Yeah.

Margaret: Very colourful, a few of them have been very colourful, that are simply stunning as properly. And I believe it looks as if you’ve been including some medicinal herbs to the catalog as properly, yeah?

Don: Yeah. And as a seed firm, we’ve what we’re enthusiastic about, however we even have to reply to the place the tradition goes. And that’s one thing I’ve observed a giant resurgence in curiosity in folks rising their very own medicinal herbs. So I’ve an worker who has some expertise with that, Taryn Hunter, who I’ve actually simply tasked with determining what’s the new herbs to develop, what ought to we be both rising. Or we additionally work with an amazing firm out of Washington referred to as Mates of the Bushes Botanicals, and that’s Michael Pilarski who goes by the identify Skeeter, who’s considered one of our permaculture elders right here within the Northwest. They usually develop and harvest medicinal herb seed that we provide.

Margaret: Properly, a whole lot of enjoyable selections. As I stated, there’s like 1,000 issues in your assortment and perhaps 700 in any given 12 months being provided. I’m so glad to talk to you; I all the time study from you, Don, and I hope that we’ll maintain the teachings going for extra years to come back. So, thanks, thanks, and have seed-selling season, huh

Don: Thanks a lot.

extra from don tipping

The Siskiyou web site

Our earlier dialog about rising onions (and leeks) from seed

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