MY LIFE - Memories of zinnias

MY LIFE - Memories of zinnias

I planted zinnias today.

Talk about taking coals to Newcastle!¬?I need more flowers like I need another hole in my head, but my daughter Kathy has been telling me I really need to plant some.¬?It's not just that she grows them in her own yard every year and loves them, but she is familiar with my own zinnia past.

As a child I grew up in a fourth floor tenement surrounded by concrete.¬?The house sat right up against the sidewalk with a rough cement driveway on one side and a concrete backyard with a row of garages that ran all along the back.¬?Right next door was a gas station with several bays for the auto repair business owned by our landlord.¬? Directly across the street was a grocery store.

The driveway on the other side of the house wasn't really concrete, although the dirt was so hard-packed it might as well have been.

The house next door to us on the other side was also a four-decker, but constructed along more esthetically pleasing lines, it had a small lawn in front and up along one side, as well as grass in the backyard.¬?And many, many years before, when I was very young, a profusion of purple irises grew there, right along the raised cement wall that separated the two yards.¬?Tall and regal looking, they resembled the orchids I had seen in pictures and I thought they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen.

I longed for flowers of my own, and even then having the same basic personality I have now, when I was 9 or 10 years old I decided to do something about it.

The first order of business was salvaging a wooden crate from behind the market, taking care that no one saw me lest I would be told to put it back.¬?It wasn't really stealing since I had taken it from the rubbish heap, but I wasn't taking any chances.¬?I saw my chance, I snatched it, and I put it on our front porch.

Filling it with dirt (there was no way you could ever flatter it by calling it "soil") came next, and was the toughest part of the project, requiring many, many trips up and down the stairs, using a spoon to scrape up the dirt, filling a cup, and then going back for more until the crate was filled to a depth of a few inches.

Using my allowance to buy a packet of seeds and then carefully planting them according to the directions completed the project.¬?I carefully watered it, waited, and watched for results.

Against all odds, the flowers grew.¬?Zinnias, chosen strictly for their rainbow of colors as seen on the front of the seed packet, slowly poked up from the soil. Responding to the loving care bestowed upon them, they grew into tall, leggy, beautiful (at least to my eyes) blooms that all too soon began to topple due to their shallow planting.¬?But they were lovely while they lasted.

When I grew up and had a home of my own, the plantings began.¬?There were marigolds and petunias, flowering shrubs, irises, and lilacs in both purple and white.¬?But for some reason I just never planted zinnias again, perhaps because of the way they had toppled over in their crate.

Once I moved to here to Cumberland, I quickly grew tired of constantly starting over again every spring and I began planting perennials that, once established, would settle in and come back every year.¬?I have perennial beds everywhere now, to the point that when giving directions to my home I tell people, "It's the house with the ridiculous amount of flowers." But no zinnias, which seems a rather shabby way to treat the flowers that once gave me such pleasure.

The oversight has been corrected.¬?With any luck at all, not to mention regular watering and care, zinnias in a new rainbow of colors should be blooming in at least two beds, and in two different sizes.¬?The gigantic ones will be in the perennial bed on the front lawn, and the marginally smaller ones will hopefully fill in the area around the stump of the enormous ash that had to be cut down last fall.

I'll let you know how it works out.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.