The only annuals I grow, in quantity, every year, are cosmos. The taller kinds are good fillers for new gardens and they bloom for months. The large seeds germinate quickly, the seedlings are quick and easy to grow and the plants and flowers withstand all weathers, though the taller kinds can get felled in windy autumn weather. In the past there were two main types; the tall, and pink, C. bipinnatus kinds and the yellow and orange, smaller and warmth-loving C. sulphureus kinds. Things are getting more complex as the two have been hybridised and we now have (pale) yellow ‘bipinnatus’ kinds such as ‘Xanthos’.
It is no exaggeration to say that the most successful ‘novelty’ of recent years has been the ‘Cupcakes’ strain and I have written about them before. About twenty years ago the ‘Double Click’ cosmos had us all aghast and now there are single colours in the series but I don’t like them as much as the single or semi-double cosmos. Dwarf kinds have also made their impact, but I tend to prefer taller kinds. This year the most beautiful of those I have grown are ‘Velouette’.
Though variable, these are the richest of reds and irregularly streaked with white, creating a rich raspberry ripple effect.
Almost as lovely, and certainly a gorgeous colour, is ‘Xsenia’. This is neat, at about 60cm high, and has very attractive, rounded blooms that are peachy pink with the centre of the flower showing the deepest infusion of yellow shades.
And lastly, ‘Apricot Lemonade’ is the next stage in development after the pale yellow ‘Xanthos’ and similar ‘Lemonade’. It is quite distinct because the flowers are rather strappy, and smaller than the previous two, above. They vary in shade a lot, from yellow with bronze reverse to showing pink bases to the petals. Whether this is good or bad, the plants are quite strong growing and are doing well. The flowers are slightly small and not as free as some other cosmos but they are pretty.
Of the three, ‘Xsenia’ wins for novelty combined with beauty but the seeds are quite expensive. ‘Velouette’ is taller and bushier with larger flowers and the striking colouring is dramatic. There are too many cosmos to tempt me to grow the same every year but I think I might find a place for ‘Xsenia’ next year, especially if I save some seeds.