Monday, November 1, 2010

Cosmos

Cosmos is my favorite garden flower. It is low maintenance and easy to grow. The color varieties include orange, yellow, lemon yellow, pink, purple and white. Cosmos flower have various forms such as single layer, double layer, with stripes and cone shape. There is also a variety with smell of chocolate.



I started with the orange variety by sowing the seeds in a mixture of soil and coco peat in a small medium sized container. The container received the sun light most of the day. Within a span 3-4 days the seedling emerged. Since this was my first experiment with cosmos I did not transplant the seedling and instead left it in container. Few of them emerged stronger and in about 8 weeks they flowered and continued for a month or so. The first step in Cosmos propagation was successful. But I was not very impressed by the number of flowers or the size of it.



Next in line is a variety named Sensation Mix that included mix of white, pink and purple flowers. I sowed the seeds as above. The seedlings emerged within few days and started growing vigorously. I was excited by the prospect of the mix of these colors. However even after waiting beyond two months none of them showed any signs of budding. I was not sure if the problem was with the seeds or the weather. December winter temperature steadily going down and only few hours of sun on my side of house would have been the likely cause. But as a consolation, Mother Nature, finally gave me one single pink bloom just to keep my spirits high and for the record book!







It was time for some serious reading about Cosmos. Internet has so much information about cosmos and researching through them I realized that the Cosmos needs full sun, not much fertile soil and minimum watering. I specifically liked reading through the following two websites.

I decided to wait till the winter pass. By first week of February I started my third cycle of Cosmos experimentation. This time, I selected seeds of Orange, Yellow and Lemon Yellow colored varieties. Also I planned to directly sow it in my corner garden instead of the containers. Prepared the soil by tilling lightly, mixed red soil and then thinly layered coco peat. I had read somewhere that when seeds are directly sown in the soil, it is better to mark the location of the seed using small rolls of paper or cardboard around them.  This way you easily water the proper location and also identify the seedling from other weeds and plants around.



As earlier seedling emerged within few days and started developing fast. For some reason I did not take the photos of the progress they made. However in the next three months, as the scorching summer sun lit up my side of home, the plant started growing vigorously. The Orange variety had slender stems whereas the Lemon Yellow variety has very think stems and very green foliage. And by around 12 weeks most plants started flowering and continued for another two months. The color mix did look very appealing. I had a grand success.






I constantly removed the spend flowers and also collected the seeds when pod was almost dry. I made a mistake of not separating seeds by varieties. Instead I dropped them all in an old show box and kept it shade. After about 2 months, I cleaned all the seeds, blew off the dried petals and then stored them in an air tight container.




 






Very excited, I now longed for some new varieties of the Cosmos. I contacted one of my friends who was in US and was about to return to India in June. Though I order several varieties, only the following two were in stock - Cosmos Candy Stripe  and Cosmos Sea Shells Blend. Not only these seeds were costly (compare to prices in India) but also very few in quantity.  I was not very sure if they would grow at all in Bangalore. I sowed them in container with coco peat and soil mix. I was pleasantly amused when the seedling emerged after few days and started growing fine. 



The buds appeared after 6 week – and that is when I decide to not keep them in the same container. I transplanted them to a several container, 2 seedling per pot and remaining were planted them on the ground in the place were earlier Cosmos generation had flourished.




Sun was still shinning on our side of the house. The constant Monsoon rains and later autumn sunshine ensure healthy growth of the plants. And just like other verities, by 8 weeks, most of them started flowering. And what amazing color they had! I spend so much time gazing these lovely color, feeling the petal, smelling the stem (this variety ‘s stem has a sweet smell), removing spent flowers, collecting the seed buds, and photographing from every angels.

















So after almost a year of experimentation, I can now say I know how to grow this beautiful plant. It is now early November and still flowering. I have collected enough seeds to continue this cycle for another year. Yes, this time I have remembered to store the seeds separately as per the colors.



Meanwhile the worthy Orange variety has self-seeded and is competing with its US counterparts. I had also strewn some seeds in a small patch, under a tree, in front of my house. And they too are now flowering.

Before I finish this post, I would like to share something I discovered while researching about cosmos. In some parks of Japan they grow Cosmos on enormous fields every autumn and it is called Cosmos Festival. The sight is breathtaking and for a fan of Cosmos like me, it is a dream to visit the place.

Update (2010/01/04):
Submitted for How to Find Great Plants (Issue #2) at Appalachian Feet.