U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cosmos Forever

"Who did this?" - strictly asked the director of the kindergarten pointing her finger at the pink and white flower petals scattered around.
"Who did this?" - echoed those words by a kindergarten teacher and her assistant.
During the recess in the kindergarten's backyard, someone beheaded the cosmos plants and plucked off their blooms.
The kids, twenty or twenty five of them, were standing in one single line. Nobody answered the question.
In the summer flowerbed behind the teachers' backs, they could see tall stems with feathery foliage but without any flowerheads.
"Tell us if you did it, and there won't be a punishment" - said the director. "Nothing will happen to you, just step up front!" - said the teacher.
Slowly, one after another, five boys stepped up to the front of the line. They were our group's usual troublemakers. They were silent and looked down.
Then, thunder sounded, lightning struck and the whole world turned upside down. Well, it didn't happen, of course, but this is exactly how I felt. Because, right after the culprits with desheveled hair and dirty fingernails made their speechless confession, we heard the words:
You are grounded, and tomorrow, your parents need to come to talk to the director".
It was the very first time in my life when I realized that adults can lie.
So many years passed, but every time I see a cosmos, I recall that day. Isn't it funny how some plants are associated with certain people or events which happened early in our life?
That experience was shocking for me, but I never stopped loving Cosmos.

Airy white, light- and dark pink flowers on the thin stems can be seen all over Russia. My mother always grew them in our gardens. When we had a little summer house and a piece of land on the bank of the Amur River*, the plants selfseeded and grew between the raised beds of potatoes, eggplants and tomatoes. They had the thickest and tallest stems I've ever seen! Cosmos, as well as marigolds, calendula, portulacs and daisies, are typical annuals in private and public Russian gardens. The word Cosmos is a Greek word (Kosmos), and it is widely used in the Russian language and means "the outer space".
Cosmos bipinnatus (Garden cosmos or Mexican aster), one of more than 20 species of cosmos,) is a half-hardy annual. Self-seeding. Height - from two to four feet (although I've seen it much higher!). Flowers are pink, purple and white, and attract butterflies including the Monarch butterfly. Prefers alkine soil (pH between 6.0 and 8.5). Full sun or partial shade. Tolerant to drought. Pests and diseases are rare.
Cosmos is recommended to be planted in groups for visual effect and support.
P.S. Did you ever try to pull the petals from a cosmos flower? You didn't? But, you sure did it with daisies, didn't you? It's actually fun! Many kids like to do that. I think it is their way to comprehend the philosophical concept of whole-part relationships.

* Other posts about the plants of the Amur River basin are here:
"Where Amur Plants Came From"
The other plant from my childhood is Dahlia -
"September 1st and Dahlias "

Copyright 2010 TatyanaS


  1. Sounds like a discussion of why instead of who would have been more beneficial. Maybe they should have been glad that the boys noticed the flowers.
    I haven't grown cosmos for a number of years. Yours are lovely.

  2. Great story Tatyana! I taught Kindergarten for thirty-five years and I always found if you were honest with children, they would always look back and think you were fair. If you tricked them, that would always be their memory of their Kindergarten experience and you.

    I haven't grown Cosmos in several years but I should give them another try next year. I'll have to make room for some.


  3. Fun story, Tatyana!
    Like hearing about other parts of the world.
    I like cosmos very much and I need to start growing them from seed.
    The pink one you have is beautiful with the darker pink towards the center.

  4. I too, have spent the last few years creating a garden from scratch! In my case, a patch of field behind the converted 18th century barn we live in. So, really interesting discovering your blog. I'm bonkers about cosmos too - the white and magenta ones in the garden this year are pushing 6ft!

  5. Isn't it funny how childhood experiences like this still stick in our minds? Your cosmos are so lovely. I didn't have as much luck with the pink ones this year, and I miss the airy plants I had last year. I will definitely be planting them again next year.

  6. The photos are wonderful. Yes, I hate it when adults lie, especially to children. They would have learned the lesson so much more if they would have been brought to a garden and shown how much work it was to get the flowers into adulthood and asked to help in the garden to grow others so they would learn the harm they did that way.

  7. What a great story! Sadly, the only lesson learned is that adults can lie. I love cosmos- the ferny foliage and the bright flowers. Your pink ones are lovely.

  8. What a telling story Tatyana. Some things just really stick in a child's mind.I remember things when I was a child and I cannot remember what I did yesterday.LOL! I guess it is because they were actual lessons in life like yours was.
    I love cosmos and have tried them from seed for several years without growing any until this year. I have some that are getting so tall but have yet to bloom. I hope they get it dine before it frosts. LOL!
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  9. The story can still teach us a lot - adults should never lie to childer or they will never be trusted again.

  10. That was a great story - too bad the adults had to lie like that and wreck everything.
    I love Cosmos and especially the new Pied Pipered I got this year that you can look in between the petals. So unusal and beautiful. But they were looking pretty terrible and not snapping out of it from this heat wave we've had so it's the time of year I just grabbed them and threw them into the compost pile. Now I can remember how beautiful they were and not have to look at them dying.

  11. What a sad story! I know it's a cliche, but a true one - children learn from what we do, not what we say. And often that means that they learn to distrust what we say. This goes in the same category as threatening a consequence but not following through.
    I love Cosmos and your pictures are beautiful!

  12. What a pretty arrangement Tatyana. Your cosmos is beautiful. I love the color. Happy gardening.

  13. Great story and what a stunning coour that flower is.

  14. What a story! Unfortunately, adults do lie.

    I love the color of your cosmos.


  15. Your story had me sitting on edge. I'm glad you still like cosmos despite the fact it is associated with a not so good memory. I too think it neat plants can bring memories so vividly to the forefront of our minds.

  16. Love cosmos. That is one story, for sure, sort of a reality check for all of you to note the cruelty of the world at a very young age. I remember picking a tulip from a lady's yard on my way to school as a small child. She came out screaming at me. Needless to say I never did that again. I think of that when I occasionally go by that house. Some things just stay with you.

  17. Your cosmos are absolutely beautiful! I had one, lowly cosmos plant that grew tall and was about to form a bud when aphids, I believe, (at least they looked like aphids...) sucked the life out of it...literally. It just shriveled up and died. :-/

  18. I love your intro into Cosmos Tatyana. Adults do not always set the best examples do they? Enchanting to think of your summer garden in Russia. I love cosmos too. Your bouquet at the end is exquisite and the soft photo stunning! Lovely, Lovely! ;>)

  19. Well, with this post you should have a better memory now.

    People can be well..nasty.

    But cosmos are beautiful.


  20. We stayed at a B&B on the first night of our honeymoon. The house was once the residence and office of a country doctor. We had the old office (converted to a suite) all to ourselves, and outside the small front porch was a patch of very tall cosmos, pinks and white. That is what I associate with cosmos.

  21. Such a sad story. I used to teach school and I knew teachers who would say things like that to the students. How sad. I would hate to have a child remember that about me. Carla

  22. I would get into trouble for popping the Fuchsias..but only mild trouble-a cocked eyebrow and a slight frown. I was never asked to confess-my guilt was obvious. I still do it. I love to see the goldfinches on my Cosmos so I don't deadhead them and instead pull them up when the seeds are gone-there's more where that came from !

  23. You poor dear. No one should have childhood trauma associated with cosmos.

    I love the photo with the poppyseed heads.

  24. You have beautiful Cosmos. Love the Cosmos actually, such a pretty-delicate but strong flower.
    Dislike that adults lie to trick children.

  25. Hi Tatyana,

    Wonderful post, I too love Cosmos and only discovered them last year, mine are not yet in flower and do not look like they will do so, soon… This year has been a strange one, and even sowing nice and early on has not ensured their flowering. I am most disappointed, but I can hope :(

  26. Dirty fingernails never lie! Thanks for sharing the story

  27. Hi! I really enjoy reading your post. Born in tropical climate I did not know about this flower until I was studying in Japan. My first encounter with cosmos was when a japanese friend brought me to a field full of cosmos. Your picture bring back fond memories.

  28. Stunning cosmos, Tatyana ... luv them! (For the first year, I have chocolate cosmos blooming ... )

  29. You're a great story-teller and nothing beats a true story! The school director did not hold up his integrity! Hope that "the boys" met other people in their lives who were more thrustworthy than him.

    You have beautiful flowers!

  30. I love cosmos, your pictures and the poppies seed heads!!!!
    maria cecilia


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