Last of the Garden

Small bunches of orange and lavender cosmos; unfortunately, these were fading fast. I probably picked luscious new bouquets that evening.

Small bunches of orange and lavender cosmos; unfortunately, these were fading fast. I probably picked luscious new bouquets that evening.

Tonight after supper I worked in the dusk to take down the dried stalks from the humongous cosmos we enjoyed all summer. Some of the stalks were seven feet high; overall, I stuffed a large trash can with everything I cleared. Even though we’ve had frost, there were a few blossoms, which I cut and brought inside–the last of the summer garden.

We got an immense amount of joy out of those cosmos plants. In the spring I’d prepared a plot of dirt in a corner at the side of the house and sprinkled a handful or two of wildflower seed mix. I expected a few daisies, baby’s breath, cornflowers and similar blooms, and I was thrilled when the plot erupted with sprouting leaves within days of my planting.

I was hoping for a modest cutting garden where I could pick a small bouquet every so often. I was a little disappointed when the first plants bloomed and they looked so “weedy.” My cutting garden resembled the side of a country road–okay, but not the best blossoms for bouquets, especially given the puny quantities.

Then came the cosmos. I always thought cosmos was a short flower. To my astonishment, huge bushes appeared over the summer and exploded with orange and yellow flowers. They had long stems when cut and made up beautiful bouquets. Every couple of days, July through early October, I gathered fistfuls of mostly orange cosmos with a few yellow mixed in and displayed them in one of Mom’s cream pitchers, an antique china piece with what appeared to be orange cosmos on the side.

In the meantime, enormous stalks with fern-like leaves were climbing to the sky. Neither Mom nor I had any idea what they were (neither of us is knowledgeable beyond marigolds, impatiens, pansies, and the like). When August arrived with no blooms in sight, we really wondered if the plants were going to bloom at all.

We were delighted to discover these were cosmos as well–a lovely lavender color tinged in places with pink. There weren’t quite as many as the orange, but once they appeared, I was able to cut healthy bouquets of those, too. All summer and into autumn, we always had small vases or creamers filled with flowers, which was a delight and fulfilled my ambition for planting the garden in the first place. The cosmos, especially the orange, didn’t last more than a day or two before wilting, but they were easily replaced. The lavender cosmos, on the other hand, lasted and lasted, especially in the old glass bottle I’d given Mom as a gift once that read “Morrow, O.” on the side (my grandmother grew up in Morrow).

I have all winter to decide how I want to handle the garden next year. Another random toss of wildflower seed or purposeful sewing of cosmos so we have a bountiful supply of blossoms all summer? Cosmos was definitely the gift that kept on giving.

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