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Summer Reward By Cheryl Hughes

When you work with the public, you hear a lot of comments about the weather, especially hot weather.  Our partner Greg tells our customers, “This ain’t the right weather for a fat boy.”  To which they respond, “I wish it would warm up.”  A few people say, “Now this is where you guys need to be changing oil,” as they step from the hot bay into the air conditioned office.  Still, others predict a bad winter after we’ve been through some extremely hot days, like we had last week.  My favorite comment came from a TV news report.  The captain of the police force in a Massachusetts’s town got on camera to ask the criminal element of the area not to do anything illegal during the predicted end-of-week heat wave, saying, “We’ll all meet again on Monday when it’s cooler.”

            I’ve never been a fan of hot weather, and I would forego summer altogether if not for tomatoes and Zinnias.  Tomatoes are my favorite summer produce, and they thrive in heat—the hotter the better.  Zinnias are my favorite summer flower, and they feel the same way about heat that tomatoes do. 

            Zinnias are a simple unassuming little flower, and I always plant them in my vegetable garden in order to attract the pollinators.  They are also a source of encouragement for me.  When I’m hot and sweaty and dirty from picking butter beans or okra, I can catch a glimpse of their happy little faces, and I’m smiling before I know it.

            Last summer, I asked Garey to pick up a packet of Zinnias for me on one of his trips to Bowling Green for tractor parts.  He came back with five different varieties, some of them I never knew existed.  He said he didn’t know which ones I wanted, so he got a package of each, God love him.  That afternoon, he fixed a long row for the flowers, right next to the summer squash.  I spent about thirty minutes carefully placing, covering , and patting the dirt over every seed in every packet.

            One hour later, the sky opened up and rain proceeded to pound the dirt and wash the row away.  I was heartbroken.  Eight plants survived.  When those eight plants bloomed, however, I discovered I had a representative from each variety.  There were the traditional Zinnia my mom grew when I was a kid, the California Giant, the Lilliput, the Peppermint Stick, and the Candy Stripe.  They were beautiful.

            I gathered the seed heads last fall, and this summer, Garey fixed another flower row on a slightly higher spot, next to the butter beans.  Once again, I placed, covered and patted the soil over the little seeds.  Zinnias sprout very quickly, and thanks to the abundance of rain this growing season, I had flowers in no time.  And what a display!  Once again, all five varieties were represented, along with new colors, thanks to cross-pollination.  The Peppermint Stick and Candy Stripe crossed to create beautiful speckled and striped flowers.  Some of the traditional Zinnias were half one color and half another.  The Lilliput, which resembles a large pin cushion, had specks of pink and purple.  I even ended up with some pale yellow Zinnias, which I’ve never had before. 

            I love diversity, and there is so much of it in nature.  There are endless possibilities, things we could never conceive come from adding this to that.  Seeds + Water + Heat = Summer Reward.  It’s nice to get something after surviving the brutal heat.

            (I’m saving seed again this year.  If any of you want some of the seeds, message me on fb or stop by New Image Car Care.  I will be happy to share.)

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