The Garden Guy: QIS Carmine gomphrena and Uproar Rose zinnia host a spectacle of nature

By Norman Winter
Tribune News Service
This male American Goldfinch has just picked off a seed from underneath the Uproar Rose blossom.

Carmine is not a word I grew up with describing color. By definition, it is a vivid crimson. The QIS Carmine gomphrena is a prime example. If you were partnering up a color, an intense yellow gold would be perfect, so send in a dozen or so American goldfinches to eat not only gomphrena seeds, but zinnias, too.

The spectacle has been happening several times a day, creating what many gardeners would consider a National Geographic moment. James, my color design guru son, planted three beds fairly close in the Old Town community of North Columbus, Georgia. So, while you might think I have been describing a backyard habitat, it is actually street-side close to parking and shops.

The beds feature the QIS Carmine gomphrena, Uproar Rose zinnias, Superbena Stormburst verbena, and Profusion yellow zinnias. While he designed the beds, it’s Mother Nature who is creating the spectacle via a feeding frenzy. Most of us are simply thrilled to see American goldfinches at feeders, much less our plants.

I can tell you that if you are mesmerized by hummingbirds coming to your salvias and cupheas, you will be in total ecstasy when birds come to pick off your mature seeds. To be honest, the flowers were so pretty and persevering we didn’t realize there were any seeds ripe for the picking.

QIS gomphrena is known botanically as Gomphrena haageana with the common name Rio Grande globe amaranth. The species is native to Texas, New Mexico and Mexico, so it has a great tough DNA. It is offered in Carmine and three other colors from PanAmerican Seed. Imagine 24- to 30-inch-tall carmine colored blooms being adorned with one of America’s most beautiful birds of bright gold and black. Of course, there is a caveat: American goldfinches would need to be residents in your area during this time.

Uproar Rose zinnia has now done it all. It may be as close to perfection as an annual flower can be. It provides cut flowers, brings in butterflies, hummingbirds and as now documented the feeding of American goldfinches. You know when garden centers sell a transplant of a tall zinnia it must be exceptional. The good news for you is they are easy to find online in the seed market.

Uproar Rose is a large dahlialike flower borne on 30-inch tall stems. Expect the plants to reach about 3 feet wide, so give adequate spacing when planting. These zinnias look like the quintessential cottage garden flower partnered with rudbeckias, coreopsis, Shasta daisies and of course the gomphrena mentioned in these beds. Uproar Rose zinnias also excel artistically as the thriller plant in designer mixed containers.

Gomphrenas and zinnias perform best in full sun with fertile, well-drained soil. Part-sun will still work but blooms will be more prolific in full sun. When working soil, incorporate 2 pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed space. I like to use a 12-6-6 ratio when I can easily find it, but a balanced one that contains a slow-release form of nitrogen will do just fine. Work in the fertilizer and 3 to 4 inches of organic matter, tilling 6- to 8-inches deep.

While I am touting QIS Carmine gomphrenas the midsummer report for Truffula Pink is outstanding in performance and pollinators and the Ping Pong series is simply stunning. This gives you three choices of gomphrena species to partner with Uproar Rose or your favorite garden flowers. I can’t promise a spectacle like we are experiencing in Columbus, Ga., but I can assure you summerlong color.

Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.