out front every summer I plant a big, long, four-row bed of mixed zinnias. Like Katicha’s right elbow, they are much admired by connoisseurs.
The thing is, for this essay, is that these zinnias have been grown from their own seed for at least eighteen years. I take the seed from the dead heads of the flowers, as I did this morning, to keep them in a cool, dry place until next May-- if the Lord lets us live….
This morning I thought more carefully about what I was doing out there on the deck on this glorious October morning, pulling the dry petals with seed attached from the dry blossom. I must then break the seeds free from the chaff of the petal.
Lets see… if there is any one thing we may all agree upon, it is that the intention of each of those seeds is to fall to earth next spring in a rebirth. A new life. Right? Such is basic botany.
It occurred to me also that I, ME, this morning, was as essential to my seeds new life next year as was the soil in which they were lodged for the sun and water to nurture them.
In my fingers was the life or death of these seed. I selected them, naturally or no.
Then a funny thing happened, otherwise I should shut up and go do something useful.
You see, I have one variety of zinnia that wants to dominate the rest. I like it a lot and call it my pom-pom for its pronounced and fine ball shape. It’s pink, a rose pink, that I like, even if my father did advise that pink was the “unnecessary color”. I’d protest to him, if I could, that this abalone pink is a strong and useful tint of an all but necessary color.
So, there I was this morning faced with a box full of dead zinnia flower heads, I flew to my work only soon to realize that those pom-pom pink heads were coming to my hand way more frequently than the others. That variety was demanding precedence and getting it. Not only because they were plentiful, but because they gave up more mature, darker gray, spade shaped seeds than did the random others. The pom-poms harvested much more efficiently. They were making certain that, through me, by using me, they could dominate the garden next year and so fulfill their reason for being: plain old reproduction. They were making me a part of their life process. Without me, they were done for.
But then there were heads of other blossoms: reds, of several hues, lesser pinks, purples, a few yellows and even fewer cherished whites. I really wanted their seed in order to relieve the heavy pinkishness of the bed. As I began to process the seed of these “other” blossoms, I suddenly realized that they too were using me in the process of their destiny as a variety.
They were forcing me to be extremely careful of their seeds, almost to the individual seed. In this way they would live to bloom another season. They have their way of getting round their yellow and white weakness.
Years and years ago, I was in thrall, and in many ways still am, to George Bernard Shaw, to be known hereafter as “GBS”. I was much moved by his evolutionary thinking and his effort to side-step Darwin in order for human consciousness to enter, as a force for development, the competitive field of the species.
GBS championed Lamarckian theory and was highly criticized for it. I tried to keep the faith and, today, believe, in my foolish, fond way, that I and my zinnias are making a sort of point for Lamarck-- evolution in miniature, and saving a lot of money into the bargain.
Have you noticed how few zinnia seeds there are in a two-dollar pack? I’ve harvested a small fortune worth and will share some of them, even the pink pom-poms.