by Gini Sage
Cosmos, the Township of Uxbridge flower, is a bright, easy to grow alternative for you to add to your gardens. This hardy annual is native to Central and South America, and was cultivated by the early Spanish priests in their mission gardens in Mexico. Due to its evenly spaced petals they christened the flower “Cosmos”, from the Greek word kosmos, which means “an orderly harmonious systematic universe”.
Cosmos belongs to the family of plants known as Compositae, and consists of over twenty species. The most commonly cultivated annual species for the home gardener are Cosmos sulphureus and Cosmos bipinnatus. You may easily distinguish between the two, as the flowers of C. sulphureus are shades of yellow, orange and red, with leaves that are long, with narrow lobes and hairy margins. Contrasting with these hot colours, the flowers of C. bipinnatus are cooler colours, varying from the palest white to solid or variegated shades of pink to dark rose. The leaves are finely cut, and are similar in appearance to dill or ferns. The flower form of C. bipinnatus also varies, as the “Seashell” cultivar has petals that are tubular. The range in height for the different cultivars is 25 cm to over 40 cm in height.
In contrast to many other annuals, Cosmos prefer hot, dry sites and poorer soils. To grow these in your garden, you can choose to either purchase boxed plants at your local nursery, or sow seeds in April or May directly into your garden bed. The shorter varieties may also be grown in containers. Thin the seedlings to a spacing of 15 -25 cm apart. Consistent with the site selection, do not over water or over fertilize the plants, as this will result in tall “leggy” plants with decreased flower production. There are no diseases or pests that affect Cosmos, so care is easy. Simply deadhead the spent flowers and they will continue to bloom well into the fall. Allow some of the seeds to fall in your garden, as they will readily self-seed for the next year.
In addition to the beauty of this flower brings to your garden, it will also attract Monarch butterflies. Cosmos also makes an attractive cut flower for your arrangements, and is suitable for drying. With the advantages this flower has to offer, consider adding Cosmos to your gardens this year, and celebrate the Township of Uxbridge.
Article originally published in the “Uxbridge Town Talk” magazine, April 2012