zinnia

I love fresh flowers, but given limited garden space, I’ve always had a hard time committing to grow anything except vegetables. Sure, some blossoms like nasturtiums and violas make pretty, edible garnishes. And sure, some flowers are good organic partners, repelling unwanted critters and attracting helpful pollinators. It just doesn’t feel like the same bang for the buck.

But I’m slowly coming around, thanks to a less-than-perfect track record with certain vegetables, and this summer I opted to plant sweet peas, cosmos, and zinnas among the edibles.

Wish I could say it’s been an unqualified success but frankly, the results have been mixed. The sweet peas produce stunningly-colored blooms, but suboptimal growing conditions made for small, sparse plants. Cosmos, which demand a fair amount of elbow room, are just now putting out delicate, short-lived flowers. The only real upshot has been zinnas, which grew big and bushy and sent up multiple blossoms; something about our maritime climate seems to suit them. They look wonderful in a simple vase and contribute as much happiness at the table as what’s on the plates.

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