Every year, I start off the summer full of great ambitions and overzealous hope all due to the beautiful seed catalogs that begin arriving in January. However, over the years I’ve learned to be more realistic. I now only order a couple of plants I know are indigenous to my backyard. For us, that’s daisies, black-eyes susans and zinnias. So this year, I ordered what I thought was a variety of big, colorful, tall zinnia seeds. In April, I broke out the peat pots and grow lights. I’ve also learned that when all my plants are ready to go outside, it’s me that has to put them there, so I’m careful about how many I start.

The zinnias looked strong and healthy from the minute they popped up, the best I’ve ever grown. I had to set them outside a little early because they grew so fast they began to get leggy. I hadn’t yet gotten around to preparing their sunny bed by the porch. Panicking, I planted them around the brand new walking stick bush by the front door not remembering it gets sun only in the afternoon.

I won’t bore you with details, but the zinnias were a huge disappointment. Though they grew at least three feet tall, they have the tiniest, puniest flowers I’ve ever seen. Most are pale in color, not the vibrant reds and yellows I’d expected. I tried pruning them to make them shrubbier, but that didn’t work. They just got taller. They weren’t even suitable for cutting.

Still, I have this obsession about killing things (except cockroaches) so even though I have to look at them every time I go in or out, I’ve left them alone.

Well! Beauty is definitely in the eyes of the beholder. After writing all day, I often collapse into a comfortable chair in the family room near a window overlooking the ugly zinnias. One afternoon, half asleep, I saw something iridescent quivering above the plants, a tiny female hummingbird. She hovered over a puny butter colored zinnia before flitting on to a pink one the size of a thimble. I saw her the next day and the next and soon she’d brought a whole herd of hummer friends with her, fluttering and fighting over my zinnias.

It’s still only the middle of august so the hummingbirds won’t leave for another month. Meanwhile, every afternoon around four thirty we have the pleasure of watching them feed, their voracious appetites demanding they suck the nectar out of my apparently delicious zinnias.

PS: Honeybees and butterflies like them too. Yipee!!

Nebbish zinnias

honeybee on nebbish zinnia

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