In Focus: Romantic Cosmos
When you think of Cosmos, you may be reminded of grandmotherly gardens from yesteryear~warm and sunny retreats with bees happily bumbling, butterflies dancing, brooks gurgling and birds singing. Kind of like a perfect Anne of Green Gables afternoon in the garden. In Greek, Cosmos means beauty and harmony, which isn’t surprising, since Cosmos seem to conjure up just those feelings.
Native to Mexico and South America, this casual, cottage garden heirloom is often planted toward the back of a garden, where its height, bright flowers and tapestry of delicate, feathery foliage can provide a living screen for a garden sanctuary. But Cosmos are equally at home peeking over a picket fence, softening an old stone wall, consorting with wildflowers in a meadow or standing at the ready in a colorful summer cutting garden.
Just Plant the Seeds and Step Back
There’s no need to start Cosmos in a greenhouse or under lights~they actually prefer being planted from seed directly in the garden after the last frost date. Plant ½” deep in well-draining soil with full sun (although they will tolerate partial shade.) Keep the seeds uniformly moist until the seedlings emerge, about ten days after sowing. Once the plants are 3” tall, spread them out a bit so they are 9” to 24” apart in the garden. Cosmos are forgiving and undemanding, and they will be perfectly happy growing in infertile or dry soil with nothing more than a drink of water now and again during a dry spell. Adored by butterflies for their sweet nectar and by songbirds for their abundant seeds in the fall, Cosmos flowers profusely until the first frost and may even self-seed for next year. What more could you ask of a little flower seed?
(If you feel you must start Cosmos indoors, plant the seeds ½” deep in a good sterile seed-starting soil mixture about six weeks prior to the last frost date. Provide consistent moisture, strong light and good ventilation. Before planting the seedlings into the garden, be sure to harden them off by gradually acclimating them to outside conditions over 10 to 14 days.)
A Bevy of Beautiful Choices
Cosmos have such a carefree, agreeable nature that it’s easy to plant a couple different varieties in and around the garden. Early Sensation Cosmos Mixture is an heirloom favorite that was developed in the 1930s. The plants are 3 to 5 feet tall with fine, feathery foliage and bear a profusion of 4” to 6” blossoms in bright white, pink and rose-magenta, all with yellow centers. The flowers are great for cutting, with long, strong stems and a good vase life. Our charming Seashells Cosmos Mixture also grows 3 to 5 feet tall and has slightly smaller, 3” to 4” daisy-like blooms with delicately rolled petals in shades of white, pink and deep mauve. A more compact option is our Sunshine Cosmos Mixture, which stands just 12 to 15 inches tall yet produces a non-stop display of 2 ½” semi-double, daisy-like flowers in red, yellow, orange and gold.
We also offer two newer varieties, both with sparkling white flowers. Growing from 3 to 5 feet tall, Purity Sensation Cosmos has lovely 4” to 6” snow-white flowers with yellow centers and delicate, thread-like foliage. White Psyche Cosmos is a bit shorter, with a mixture of single and semi-double 4” white flowers with yellow centers and fern-like foliage. Imagine these two surrounding your terrace on a moonlit summer night!