Flower of the week from YOUR garden to YOUR table: 3rd Oct. – 9th Oct.
Botanical Name: Cosmos. Common Name: Cosmos
We have already begun to experience many nights in single figures on the Celsius thermometer but I can still find a flower on the allotment that is as strong and showy as it always was. As it grows large and untidy you would need a large garden to give it space but on the allotment it is the perfect specimen to keep the colour until the first frosts. The flower this week is easy to grow and its name is easy to remember as it keeps its Latin name in the English language.
All varieties have ferny foliage giving it a somewhat delicate appearance. The flowers have many petals around a central disc, they are often called mini dahlias, as the flowers closely resemble small single dahlias. They are available in all shades of red, pink and white with a couple of yellow varieties as well.
Once established, it a strong plant that flowers profusely with little attention. The work involved in growing them, is before you plant them in the border as most varieties are annual plants and have to be grown annually from seed. Being a half hardy annual, to sow the seeds outside in late spring is a gamble and even if the seedlings emerge, it is often too late for them to flower, leaving us with the only option of sowing seed in a warmer environment from February onwards. A conservatory or window sill are fine, and even a cold green house should produce fine results. Beware of slugs and other insects in the initial stages. Although they often branch out naturally, when planting out, a pinch on the centre shoot will make an even more branched out plant. It is advisable to tie the plants together to keep them upright.
I scanned through the seed catalogues that have recently made their way through my letter box, looking for new and interesting varieties. Thompson and Morgan have no less than 14 varieties of Cosmos, including a unique ‘cupcake’ variety where all the petals are fused together in the form of a cupcake, which differs from the normal varieties where each petal lies horizontally separately from its neighbour. They also have a double variety, which doesn’t look like a cosmos at all! Dobies also have quite a selection(notably cheaper!), they have one called Dwarf Sensation Mixed, which they claim grows to 90cm high,( if that is the height of the dwarf how high is the giant!) – most varieties grow between 80 and 90 cm. high.
The Dobies catalogue writes : “Large flowers are well held above attractive finely cut foliage. What’s more they make great cut flowers too. “ So if you have none in your allotment this year put them on your seed list for next year now!