Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The large and the small of it

Years ago I noted some cosmos seed I'd put out had germinated but was growing in an unexpected way.  The little orange flowers were slow to appear while the leaves were larger and the plant supporting them was bigger than the rest.  A whole lot bigger.  Several feet, in fact.
GIANT! 6 feet tall and no signs of stopping
Curious, I let one of the plants grow to see how tall it would get.  It reached nearly 6 feet and was covered in flowers throughout October. Unlike the hybridized cosmos varieties purported to be in my seed packet, this was apparently a throwback cosmos sulphureus, which varies in height but can reach 7 feet.  The giant plants grew at a fairly slow steady rate until the September rains arrived and then kicked into high gear, putting on another two to three feet in height. Predictably enough with a plant several feet tall covered in flowers that became seeds, it self propagated out fairly widely.

Every year since I've had a handful of regular sized cosmos come up and a handful of the giants as well.  According to Bob at Gardening at Draco, who got giant cosmos seed from a woman he met who worked at a nursery, the cosmos sulphureus plants seed out true to form.  Though I think mine came mistakenly mixed in a packet with the hybridized seed that stay in the 12-18 inch range, I found it a happy accident. I welcomed these 4-7 foot giants.
Hybridized Cosmos, about 18 inches tall
Now I typically pull out all the giant throwbacks with the exception of one or two that seem well placed.  This year's version had just started to bloom. It was kicking into one last growth spurt as it climbed to nearly 7 feet.  And then disaster struck.  I don't know how it happened - there were no torrential rains or bursts of wind, no signs of digging or chewing or disturbance of any kind. One day I went out to weed and water, and the giant had fallen, tearing apart at the main stem.
Regular cosmos at lower left, giant cosmos sulphureus the day before it fell.  RIP, big guy.
I couldn't let those blooms go to waste.  I snipped off all the flowering branch tops and popped them into a vase of water to enjoy indoors.  There is one intact flowering branch remaining attached to the main stem, and it will simply have to carry the reseeding burden for the entire plant this season.
I think these golden flowers are gorgeous, indoors or out.  I am sorry to lose the mass of flowers out in the beds though.  Reportedly, cosmos attracts monarch butterflies, and I was hoping to get some royal visitors here this year. I do have some seed stored from past year's plants (if I can find it!) and I'll put that into play at the appropriate time.  Trowels crossed that will guarantee the reappearance of these butterfly friendly giants for years to come.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy the visitors I am getting, like this Vanessa cardui happily nectaring on Lantana.  This butterfly might not be royally designated, but I am thrilled to have it drop in.


Tina said...

It's good to know that I'm not the only one who loses seed packets.
Wow! Gargantuan cosmos! So, so beautiful and such great butterfly plants. I've never been able to grow cosmos--the few full sun areas I have are given to other things. I'll enjoy yours though!

TexasDeb said...

Tina: It is not even a seed packet I lost, but a white unmarked envelope jammed with seed from the taller plants. I have absolutely no idea where it is, though I know where to start looking, anyway. That said I lose "regular" seed packets all the time. (allll the time)

The cosmos here do fairly well with just part sun though the giants love the full sun for best blooms. I hope I don't lose the giants altogether...they are real pollinator magnets when in bloom.

Linda/patchwork said...

I had a giant pink cosmos years ago. It was supposed to be small...bought a transplant...but, you know how that goes.

The cosmos I have now are small. Same golden bloom as yours. They're all over the veggie garden, from one transplant years ago. It seems the thing I can grow the best in the veggie garden. :/

That last photo is stunning.

debra said...

What a nice surprise from the cosmos. Your flower arrangements are superb and the texture in the butterfly photo takes my breath away. Wow.

TexasDeb said...

Linda: Wow - a giant pink cosmos. That would be amazing. So it didn't seed out for you, that is a shame.

I really like cosmos of any color - they look so delicate and are yet so tough. Just right for Texas.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Thank you! Your photos are so routinely superb (is that a contradiction in terms?) - I consider that a high compliment, coming from you. I didn't so much arrange the blooms as I did gently corral them all into one vase. Massed blossoms all of one type do make a certain statement, don't they?!

Pam/Digging said...

Cosmos can be a beast, but the flowers are so beautiful it's hard to complain too much. I love using them to fill in a new garden, but then I spend a year or two yanking out seedlings to give growing perennials some light.

TexasDeb said...

Pam: Cosmos are too pretty and too drought tolerant for me to resist. I only get a few repeaters, and out of those only a handful of giants. They are certainly easy enough to spot and pull out.

I have this fantasy I'll get a giant cosmos to reseed in one of my wilder areas out front where it can pop up over summer tired perennials for a couple of months, give them a little shade when they'll welcome it, and then disappear again once the temperatures fall.