Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cosmic revelations

Cosmos with Small Copper butterfly

OK, I admit the last blog was a bit of a challenge. It takes a peculiar mind like mine to be intrigued by the mathematics of flowers. But I’m also fascinated by the simpler aspects of gardening – and it doesn’t get much simpler than growing annuals from seed.

I’ve always loved growing annuals from seed – right back to when I got my first little garden plot when I was about nine years old. I pretty quickly learned I could fill it with all kinds of exciting annuals from packets of Cuthberts Seeds bought for a few pence from Woolworths.

Later on I discovered that there were seed companies like Dobies and Carters that would post me wonderful colourful catalogues of their seed ranges for free. I even sent off to seed companies in the US for their catalogues and I remember getting a huge catalogue of all kinds of exciting plants from the Burpee Seed Company. As a 12 year old, I found the name enormously amusing. And I bet I was the only boy of my age in my town who had a pile of seed catalogues as bedtime reading!

I still reckon annuals from seed offer fantastic value in the garden and we grow quite a lot to fill the holes in our beds while we are waiting for the perennials to reach full size.

One of my particular favourites has always been Cosmos. It’s such a big showy plant with lovely fern-like foliage and attractive flowers that insects and butterflies just love. But I always wondered why it was called Cosmos as it seems pretty extravagant to name a flower after the universe.

Apparently it was given the name by Spanish priests who found the plant growing wild in Mexico and grew it in their mission gardens. The evenly placed petals led them to christen the flower Cosmos - the Greek word for harmony or ordered universe.

And why is it so ordered? Well the fact that every Cosmos flower has eight petals might have something to do with the previous blog …. but I did promise. No more mathematics!


Bea said...

I think next to Zinnia, Cosmos's are my favorite too. Just so bright and beautiful. Watched a show about fractals last night and thought about how they use it to map the world of nature. Thought you would have enjoyed that show too.
Love the butterfly. I can never get enough of butterflies. I saw a tiny little light blue one yesterday. First time I've ever seen that in my back yard. :)Bea

DJ Kirkby said...

I love Cosmos too. Gorgeous flowers. Have you ever thought of starting a garden centre?

Twisted willow said...

Thanks for your comment, Bea. Haven't really got to grips with fractals, and would have been fascinated. In a way I'm just rediscovering mathematics having goofed at it at school. We've been trying to identify the butterflies around the garden this year. The little blue one we see here is the Holly Blue, but we've not seen many this year.

I often thought about going into the garden nursery/garden centre business when I was younger, but you need capital and/or land and I had neither. In the end I made a good living out of doing technical writing eventually running my own small publishing company producing publications and leaflets for farmers and growers. So I was pretty close to it.

Twisted willow said...

Apologies, the second half of the comment was addressed to DJ. Lovely to have you visit.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I love cosmos too Jim (hope I have the name right!) I love the way it seeds itself everywhere (if it likes you) - it comes up in the most unlikely places but is always a bright, jolly splash of colour (I think you can get a choc-coloured one now, but not so keen on that - I think its beauty lies in its brightness).
Nice to think of you at Kilnsey show - did you ever run in the crag race down the chimnet there?

DK Leather said...

lovely post, and of course it appeals to me; there's a butterfly! :-)

lunardancer said...

Eight petals or not, the cosmos flower is one beautiful bloom no gardener would want to miss! Who cares about the mathematics? Gardening is a passion that consumes the soul of the gardener as a painting does the painter.


I love cosmos also. Never knew where the name came from. Thanks. I've never grown them...don't know why. I've been looking at various varieties in the seed cataloges...even your Burpee catalog.

The growers have been going crazy lately with new varieties of everything. I think I shall try some of the new colors of cosmos this year. New to me anyway.