Those close to her say she has a green thumb, but according to Kay Hobbs, 87, from Alexandria, "I have no more green thumb than anyone else. I just putz away at it, and it seems to all come out right in the end."

Hobbs has been gardening most of her life, from living on a farm to eventually working and living at Kinkead Cemetery with her late husband, Dale Hobbs. Both of them would take care of various things throughout the cemetery, from mowing and sodding to painting and especially taking care of the flowers.

"I did just about everything. It was the best job I ever had, and I loved working there," said Hobbs.

Although her kids thought it was eerie and were worried about the grandkids playing on the headstones, Hobbs said it always gave her and her husband something to talk about at the end of the day.

Fast forward to today, Hobbs is retired and lives alone, but she keeps busy. She walks everywhere she goes no matter what time of year, whether to the post office, the store, or simply to get out and stay active. Hobbs even painted the outside of her house by herself and does all of her own mowing and snow shoveling — according to Hobbs, an activity she truly enjoys. But she also takes care of her flowers that wrap the skirting of her house.

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Hobbs' colorful zinnias on full display outside of her house. Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press
Hobbs' colorful zinnias on full display outside of her house. Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

"I don't have any dogs or little kids to take care of, so the flowers are easier and gives me something to take care of," said Hobbs.

While Hobbs normally plants perennials — plants that will normally grow back year after year — Hobbs decided last spring to plant some zinnias next to her driveway with a bleeding heart in the center.

"I really wanted something with color. Well, I got color," said Hobbs.

Today, the bleeding heart has been completely overtaken by the towering zinnias with its wide spectrum of bright colors that now stand almost 6 feet tall, well past Hobbs' head.

Hobbs said when she bought them, she never checked the estimated height on the back of the seed packet but never expected them to reach the height they did. She once had zinnias at her farm, and they never reached the height as the ones near her house did.

Hobbs said she watered the zinnias due to the state's dry summer until they sprouted out of the ground. After that, she let them do their thing on their own, and they just kept growing.

Kay Hobbs peeks from behind the towering zinnias. Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press
Kay Hobbs peeks from behind the towering zinnias. Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

Hobbs' daughter, Sue Ellen, says she has never seen any flowers get as tall as her mom's zinnias.

"I drove in one day, and I just couldn't believe it. I have never seen flowers like that in my life. And they were bigger the next time!" said Ellen, "I would always tell my mom how lovely they are."

Hobbs said she does not know why they sprouted the way they did. She watered them when she could, pruned when they needed it and even with the summer drought, her zinnias were able to take full bloom and thrive.

"They just shot up like crazy,' said Hobbs.

Native to North American in the dry grassland region, zinnias are a part of the sunflower tribe and related to the daisy. While they normally grow 1 to 3 feet tall, on occasion, they are known to reach up to 5 feet, and sometimes even 8. They grow best in well-drained soil and prefer a lot of sun. Maybe some putzing helps too.