Bold and bright, sturdy and upright, zinnias have long been a favorite in my garden. They’re simple to grow, add splashes of magnificent color and vary in their design — from a single row of petals surrounding a protruding center of yellow stigma florets, to a dome of overlapping petals making a smooth surface of blossom. These very different shaped flowers often come from the same plant, which is puzzling but delightful.
Zinnias are so not fussy and so satisfying. White, chartreuse, orange, scarlet, peach, pink, fuchsia and lilac and too many shades in between to name. Every year at least half my flower bed is devoted to them. The summer Adrienne and Matt got married I grew extra. The table decorations at the reception were glass globe vases of zinnias, and there was at least one zinnia from my garden in each bouquet, a sweet touch. My sisters and I put the bouquets together the morning of the wedding, pulling stems from the florist’s buckets, and then one or two from my supply. Jeanne, Chris, Meg and me, working together to decorate a happy day.
It was time for our family to have a happy day. Eric had died two years before and Adrienne, quite wisely, had resisted my pleas those two years before to get married right away, have a baby, make something good happen. As it turned out, everything happened exactly when it seemed it should, following the natural cycle of sorrow and recovery and beginning to understand how life flows on in its unrelenting dailiness, marked again at some point with bright days of joy, splashes of zinnias in a garden.
Yesterday I was home again from several days with Chris and her husband Jon. Jon has been sorting through decades of photographs and gave me a picture of my sisters and me from a happy day several years ago, the four of us in a clear frame with the word “sisters” in varied fonts inscribed in silver around the photo. I propped the photo in my study so I can see it from my desk, and went out to pick bouquets for the house. Zinnias first.
Why? Zinnias pull me into appreciation. This summer has been tough for my family, and a whole lot more than tough for Chris’s sons and their partners and Jon and my parents. I’m there to help as often as possible and home soaking up the colors of flowers when I can, remembering the bouquets I made with my sisters. A room full of zinnias, a garden of bright blossoms, tables with joy in the center.