Inspiration Through Travel: You Can Grow That!

If I actually needed an excuse for traveling, it would be for the sheer inspiration. Leaving our comfort zones expands our worlds, encouraging us to keep stretching into that next town or park or garden. We've been up in Michigan once again, this time on Little Traverse Lake, which is on the western edge of the Leelanau Peninsula.
On our way up north today, we stopped in the coastal town of Northport where I had to practically jump out of the car to take photos of a garden filled with the largest Zinnias I've ever seen. Turns out I wasn't the only one impressed enough to whip out my camera. A man from southern Michigan who was snapping photos told me he also didn't recall ever seeing Zinnias this large before. From a distance they looked like Dahlias. They were all doubles with diameters the width of my hand - probably at least 5-6 inches!
As I snapped away at this front yard garden, a man stopped and asked my husband, who was in the car with our two little dogs, if they were Cairn terriers. The man, whose name was Mark, said he had a Cairn named Eddie and that they lived just up the street in a house that turned out to have a fabulous garden with lots of Hydrangeas, begonias, sculptures, mums, and the same Zinnias that were at the other house. (It turns out, Mark and his wife own the house with all the Zinnias in the front yard and rent it out.) 
Mark told me the Zinnias are called "State Fair," and that his wife buys them in flats early in the year to plant in the gardens. According to the Hudson Valley Seed Library, it's a very old variety named at a time when attending state fairs was one of the best examples of a great family vacation. Indeed, according to the National Garden Bureau in their Year of the Zinnia brochure, Zinnia 'State Fair' was introduced by the Ferry Morse Seed Company in 1939. I love Zinnias, especially the cactus forms. But I will certainly be seeking out 'State Fair' next season to see if they will grow as large as those in Northport. To top off our encounter with another gardener and Cairn terrier fan, Mark brought Eddie out to meet our Abbie. They seem to have hit it off quite well.
Abbie (left) meets Eddie.
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  1. Jean -- love your zinnia story. Indeed, State Fair is one of the most popular varieties we sell at the garden center as bedding plants. It is a plant that people come in and ask for by name. And it is a mix, with several types of flower forms. You can also find the seed for State Fair readily available. Another one you might try is Blue Point, another mix of zinnias grown for cutting. This seed might be harder to find in garden centers, but is available through several seed merchants. I've never seen Blue Point sold as bedding plants in my area, but the flowers are popular at farmers markets.

    1. Thanks, Jo Ellen. I was also impressed that the State Fair variety didn't seem to have any mildew. I'll look for seed online, as I can't see buying Zinnias as a bedding plant when it's so easy to start from seed. I've seen the Blue Point types someplace as seed, but can't remember where.

  2. Zinnias has been my favourite cut flower this year - I love the range of colours they come in - they are such show offs. It must be serendipity that you happened to pass by those gardens.