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January’s perfect garden plans dashed by summer’s realities


As we approach the best days of summer it seems odd to be looking back at January with a bit of envy. Certainly that feeling has nothing to do with the weather (perish the thought), but there’s a part of me that longs for the kind of blind enthusiasm that comes in the middle of winter. In the depth of the cold season, all summer things are possible.

Winter is when I do most of my garden planning, so by January lists of annuals to be grown from seed and purchased had already been made and plans of where they’d all be planted were in place.

Ah yes, the best laid plans …

One of the combinations I landed fairly quickly was a mass planting of single and double white Profusion zinnias (a favorite short growing series with a bunch of great colors).

Seeds were sown, plants coddled and eventually planted in the circle garden, where I like to do sections of mass plantings. When I was planting, I noticed a few buds looking a bit more like red than white so I left them out and planted the rest, all of which were just forming flower buds.

Well, it turns out that all (yes, all) of the Double White zinnias were actually red. Or possibly they were hot pink, but whatever color they were, it definitely wasn’t white. I haven’t pulled out the offending zinnias but I did order more seeds with the hope of one last shot at that glorious January vision.

It’s worth a shot, right?

Those are not white zinnias.

24 Responses

  1. I moved from a cool and foggy coastal part of California to a hot and dry part. I’m stubbornly failing with the overwhelming amount of seeds I bought in January. In my former home I had 5 foot trellises along pathways completely covered in sweet peas, nicotiana that came back year and year, fuchsias from cuttings that I collected over the years and just slipped into the ground and ignored. Now the fuchsia cuttings that I brought with me are being babied until they can fend for themselves, which I doubt will happen. Here after months I have 5 inch tall sweet peas that look pathetically scrawny up against the 4 ‘ trellis , but the morning glories next to them are coving everything I can put in their path. My wimpy bits of succulents that have lived in the same pots for decades have gone from 4″ pots to 3 gallon in 6 months. And I have discovered zinnia, asters, aloes, flowering shrubs from Australia and seemly endless varieties salvias. Instead of 4’ tall white calla lilies I have an enormous blue agave century plant that is blooming. The stalk is at half the height of the redwood ( A REDWOOD TREE!!!) and is still growing. I still miss the big lush leaves and flowers everywhere I looked and I will keep trying to grow my favorites. I have come to understand that trying and failing with seeds or cuttings is how you learn. The ones I just stuck in the ground and they effortlessly grew, I learned nothing from but thought I was pretty cool. Now I’m learning. And that also is pretty cool.

  2. Love your blog and YouTube channel. This July has been awful for my garden in Westchester NY. High heat and humidity for the whole month, and heavy storms flattened plants that weren’t supposed to need staking. Worst of all, I’ve found jumping worms in my garden for the first time. You blogged about this in 2017, but have there been any updates, and did you end up finding them in your garden? Thanks!

  3. Hi Erin, first time I have been on your site. My sis talks about it. I am in Maine, zone 4. Just yesterday, my Town gardening friend and I were driving around looking for late season deals to add to the town gardens. Over a short stop focused on icecream cones, she asked, ” what is with seeds this year?” She had some thigs turn out not to be what she ordered. AND she had heard siilar stories from others. I thought, what! how could that be, but after reading this there seems to be that there may be something to the “Seed, Caper , Mystery”. I am sure I will check in with you off and on. and the best thing about it I can chat with my sis about things.
    Best, Darth Sader, Gardener

  4. As a first time dahlia grower, I bought bags of what were supposed to be yellow and cream dahlia tubers. Alas, after all the coddling, fertilizing, and TLC, they are blooming – all bright red! I feel for you.
    So what does one do in this case? Do we contact the supplier and let them know? Is this a shipping mistake? Does this happen often?

  5. Hello Erin!! I live in beautiful Ojai California. Being so inspired by you, I order several packages of Sweetpea seeds that were to flourish with a spectacular feast for my eyes. I started them in little containers, babied them in my kitchen until the time was right for them to meet their perfect spot in the garden. This week I was blessed with THREE white flowers!! They are all turning to seed …

  6. Well Erin I am so upset the east coast weather has been crazy. We go from 90* to low 50’s the same week. From extreme lack of rain to a week of nothing but monsoon rainstorms. Then the lime echinacea decided to turn pink and seed itself in every inch it could find. Why didn’t anyone warn me that it is like a dog in heat! I’ve pulled out so many volunteers there’s very little soil or mulch left and that some colors are so dominant that they turn others to look exactly like them????! I’ve learned my garden hates me the weeds and volunteers have won. Hundreds of dollars worth of compost and over a thousand spent on mulch…. Gone!!! Ugh!!!!!

  7. I must agree it’s the anticipation of our vision and than they are all white and short and no purples and…. But we will dream again because it only truly matters to us our dream that can be true by being flexible and loving all blooming plants.

  8. I had volunteer zinnias this year! I planted them last year for the first time, and never really thought about them reseeding themselves. It was a happy surprise! Although now they are snacks for the Japanese beetles lol!

  9. At least you have flowers already! The zinnias that I planted from seed in April are still stick like with only 3 sets of leaves. Hopefully the heat will get them going. I am very happy about my Ruby Eclipse sunflowers from seed that I bought from Floret. They are forming heads already!

  10. I’m about ready to plow my entire flower garden under and call it year! Like you, I planned, ordered, seed started, coddled, hardened off and finally planted, about 2 weeks later than usual. Then we were hit with intense heat and no rain for a month following an already dry spring. The drip irrigation never made it out of the box. On top of that, word got out to the rabbit world there were good eats just planted out for their dining delight! Ugh! I now have huge gaps in the flower beds, and stunted plants that are just sitting there, mocking me. The only thing starting to take off are the zinnias. Go figure! At this point I’ll take them in any color I can get. It may be all I’m able to salvage out of this season!

  11. I also miss my blind enthusiasm I had back in January. We are amidst a full blown gut job renovation, living in the house while doing so, and I CANNOT be faffed to succession sow a single thing. Or start biennials. I can barely be bothered to dead head. The Japanese beetles have taken over and I have let them. The weeds are 9’ tall and blowing thousands of fluffy seeds all over. Things are in pots that I swore I was going to plant immediately’ back in May. Mid-Winter me is appalled at mid-Summer me.

    1. Your garden is always immaculate right now I am battling squash bugs like alit of people this year but I do have to thank God for a great harvest on everything else…also we had two and a half weeks of rain along with are 18 below freeze earlier this year.i am looking forward to a better year next year….

  12. Been there! My garden is mostly a theme of purples and oranges, some whites. Last year I planted three Oso Easy Hot Paprika roses. They were little and didn’t really bloom. Well this year I got oranges flowers on all three, but then the middle one turned RED. PW said it was the heat…I said nope…different flower, double petals. So now I have a sore thumb( for me) red rose in my garden. I’ll have to rehome the red rose to a different area and start over.

  13. That reminds me of the echinacea I planted last year that was supposed to be white but 2 of them were pink and 1 was white. A really pretty pink, and it still works. But yeah, not the white I was expecting. No matter what time of year, it’s always like Christmas morning when the flower finally blooms and you see what color it actually is!

  14. I have had many mislabeled plants this year. My pink single dahlias with dark foliage turned out to be red flowers with green foliage. The same for my Pom poms. There must have been an over abundance of red flowered tubers. Things seem to be shorter than expected as well. My China asters are blooming at only a foot tall. It’s a strange year.

  15. I am in California where Climate change is in full swing! January and February were all over the place from 60’s to 80’s. “Winter and rain arrive in March and didn’t really depart until the end of May. 4th of July no tomatoes or any other veggie ready.? I am not having fun! But I will cheer for your flowers no matter the color!

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