Monday, 10 March 2014

Cosmos, one of the great annuals for autumn

Cosmos, one of the great annuals for autumn, has started flowering; I love the pink and white ones that reach about 1.2m or so.
From central America, Cosmos comprises annuals – from pink and white Cosmos bipinnatus hybrids to lemon and orange C. sulphureus - and perennials like dark blood red Chocolate Cosmos, C. atrosanguineus from Mexico which, sleepily, pushes up in late spring after all the other perennials have stirred and even, maybe, flowered.
Cosmos must be the prettiest daisy and the height, on (generally) sturdy stems, adds elegance to the autumn garden with its wide flower head described, at times, like a dish antenna – which doesn’t adequately convey its simple beauty.

I was barely aware of sulphur-yellow varieties, let alone orange, until a nephew returned from Japan last year with enchanting images of an urban meadow he loved, of mainly deeply saturated C. sulphureus flowers - hotly orange - floating above a vast green springy cushion; a simple mixture of 2 colour cousins. I believe the meadow is in Hama Riky, a large landscape garden in central Tokyo.

It’s an idea I am tempted to steal - or appropriate, rather, as a possibility for over our bushfire shelter, when it’s approved by council and plonked into the ground. Then we’ll have an ugly large molehill – or a rounded hillock of flowers (rather than a flat field to push through).
Where to find them? I turn to the British Chiltern Seeds catalogue and find 8 varieties of Cosmos sulphureus varying from lemon and gold to orange and red; but it’s the apt flame-orange for me, 10% bright colour against 90% sober green.
This garden of flame and green, Japanese-inspired, will be far flung to the north (whence hot winds and possible bushfires come) beyond my fire-inspired garden of red, grey and maybe black. Let’s hope they do not sit too strangely together.

Jill Weatherhead  is horticulturist, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead  Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, (

Thank you to Murray Batten for the second and third photos.

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