The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Zinnias, Skippers, and the Drought

I can't remember the last time I watered the flowers in the yard – I know it has been quite a while.  The water restrictions and the drought really threw a wrench in the garden this year.  We have been doing the bucket in the shower thing for a while now and we are getting quite a bit of water to keep some plants watered – the ferns on the front porch, new pansies, etc.  I bought this wonderful ginger lily at a local place (Turnipseed).  I could not wait for August for it to bloom.  Well, at this point I am happy it is still green. The zinnias I planted from seeds last spring are almost taller than I am and blooming like crazy.  I am so surprised and how well they are coping.  At the beginning of summer, I had some flowers in pots on the deck.  The deck gets afternoon sun – all afternoon – until the sun goes down.  It gets hot on the deck – I mean hot – like melt you flip flops hot.  So, my flowers in pots on the deck kind of baked and died and since I figured the drought was around for a while I did not buy any replacements.  What do you think I see – BLOOMING – from one of the pots? (a pot that held crispy remnants of marigolds)  A hot pink zinnia!!!  All I can think is it is a happy volunteer and I am pleased to see it.


Zinnias come in many varieties.  One example of a zinnia is the typical single petal – meaning just one row of the "ray flowers" making up the outside edge of the whole flower.  A few blogs ago I mentioned the kind of flower a zinnia is – a composite flower.  A composite, remember, has ray flowers and those in the center area are called disc flowers – two types of flowers in one bloom!  Here is a link to show photos of various types of zinnia blooms  I am not promoting purchase from this website – I chose it because it shows the many varieties on one page.  The variety called "State Fair" on this page looks similar to those I grew from seeds in my yard this summer.  The "Profusion Cherry" looks like the volunteer plants in the pot on my deck.  You know, I remember seeing those plants growing in the pot – thinking I needed to pull up those weeds before they went to seed.  Well, since they turned out to be such cute zinnias, I am glad I did not pull them up!  I really thought they were volunteer petunias – I have those appear occasionally in pots and in the back yard.  The info on the State Fair plants say that they grow 36 inches – s ome of mine are at least 48 inches tall or more.  The zinnias have handled the heat and drought much better than my butterfly bushes (which are known to tolerate heat and drought well).


The butterflies love the zinnias.  Daily I see three or more Gulf Fritillaries flying around them.  Another butterfly I see often in the backyard – all summer long – is the Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus).  Here is a link to see a photo of a Fiery Skipper  Sometimes you can spot them just sunning on a leaf – they will spread their wings and be very still.  They are fast and zip around from bloom to bloom.  When they fly by me in the garden I can hear their wings beating – it has a slight semblance to the sound you get from clipping a playing card to a bike wheel – only not quite as loud.   Another type of skipper I have seen in my yard frequently – and I saw one at Lowe's a couple weeks ago – is the Long-Tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus).  This skipper looks like it sounds – it has a long tail.  Actually, the wings form what appears to be a tail.  These little skippers don't look all that pretty; they appear brownish, until you see one in the sun and then the iridescent blue-green qualities of their body and wings.  These are slightly larger than the Fiery Skipper.  Here is a great link to see the Long-Tailed Skipper and its beautiful blue/green color


Another creature to look for on the zinnias is the crab spider – they will live on the bloom and their body color will match the bloom for camouflage.   Next year – since I have been so impressed with the performance of the zinnias – I will plant more seeds!


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