“The majority of the zinnias are natives of Mexico, where they were cultivated at a very early date. The horticultural art of the Aztecs was highly developed, and at the time of the Spanish invasion of 1520, the gardens of Montezuma equalled, if not surpassed, anything that was to be seen in Europe. Besides the zinnia, his flowers included the dahlia, tigridia, sunflower, and morning-glory; and he sent his gardeners to all parts of his realm to collect and introduce new plants and trees….
“When planting a shrub or flower newly imported from a distance, Montezuma’s gardeners were accustomed to prick their ears and sprinkle the leaves of the plant with blood. The new chrysanthemum-flowered zinnias, which have quite lost the neat French-millinery elegance of the older kinds, look as though they had been reared with the aid of some such ceremony.
“The plant was named in honour of J. G. Zinn, Professor of Physics and Botany at Gottingen University, who died in 1758 at the early age of thirty-two…. It is sometimes called Youth and Age; a name for which I can find no explanation.”
From “Summer / It Is Enough” in Reborn: Selected Poems by Louise Morgan Runyon:
It isn’t always,
but at this moment, today,
it is enough
Enough, to stand in the sunlight of my garden,
to peel off the dead heads
of the yellow flowers
of the huge and glorious bush,
to bend down and examine
the brownish furry moth,
with its tiny pale iridescent
salmon-colored dots, as it pauses
on the pale, salmon-colored
Here we have some in lavender, purple, or pink — followed by a return to some of the red and orange ones that, perhaps, are descendants of those sprinkled with blood by the Aztecs as described in Flowers and Their Histories above. This may or may not be true, of course, but it can be fascinating to consider how generations of these plants made their way from Mexico in the 1500s, then to Europe, then eventually to the United States to land in a garden a mile from my house — transitions through time I had never really thought about until I started photographing flowers like this (obsessively!) and digging into their genesis and history.
Thanks for taking a look!