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Marigolds and zinnias for Southern California gardens

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Courtesy of All-America Selections

(Read caption) Tall zinnias are easy to grow and present the gardener with plenty of blooms. This is Zinnia Magellan, which won an All-America Selections award several years ago. It's an early bloomer.

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Warmer days and nights mean it’s time to get out in the Southern California garden and plant.

This month, most annual flowers can be started from seed sown directly in the soil. Front-runners for beauty and cut flowers are zinnias and marigolds. Today’s varieties of these two favorite flowers are almost foolproof, and you can bet on great color and a showy flower garden as well as bountiful cut flowers for indoors.

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Try these varieties

All varieties aren’t created equal, but among the best of the tall and half-tall varieties of marigold are the Incas, Antigua, and an oldie that's still good, Climax.

Among the good zinnias are several open-pollinated varieties, including Cactus Mix, Whirligig, and California Giants.

All of these varieties of marigolds and zinnias are easy to grow, and very rewarding in the garden and for bouquets.

Some of the dwarf kinds of zinnias and marigolds will make spectacular borders and massed plantings. Try the new Zahara series of zinnia, and see the All-America Selections winner, Magellan [pictured above].

The list of good dwarf marigolds is long but among the best are Queen Sophia, Aurora, and Janie.

Beyond marigolds and zinnias

Although marigolds and zinnias are the easiest annuals, you'll also want to try some other flowers, too, such as any of the multitude of petunias, melampodiums, rudbeckias, gaillardias, Dahlberg daisies, and cosmos.

You’ll find many more varieties from which to choose on seed racks and in garden catalogs than you will as started plants. Of course, started plants are easier, faster to bloom, and will bring the flower garden to a sparkling reality much faster.

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Eiither way, now''s the time to just get out and do it!


Gerald Burke is a freelance horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association.