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Cosmos and Sweet Alyssum
March 09, 2015

Be still my heart.

Break out the shorts and suntan lotion.

Weather forecasters are promising temperatures that are going to flirt with 50 degrees fahrenheit for my part of Michigan.

Is winter finally losing its steely grip?

I know, winter happens, especially when you live Up North.

I am thankful in one way for all of the cold, however.

The extreme cold pushed many a winter storm south of us and gave parts of the country a chance to appreciate some good OLE fashion winter.

It becomes a challenge when you aren't used to it.

Ah global warming, you gotta love it.

The snow and cold does make it more of a task when you are pushing a wheelchair in and out of the van.

This morning, I took Yolanda to 'West Michigan Heart' for her pacer checkup.

All is well (Thank you Lord).

Step outside.

Even the birds are letting us know that spring approaches.

Last week i mentioned how the Northern cardinals are in singing mode, and that is increasing.

This past week, I listened to the Black-capped chickadees, Tufted-titmouse, and White-breasted nuthatches singing away.

Woodpeckers are pounding away in the nearby woods.

When earth and nature goes silent for the winter, it is always warms my heart to hear and see nature come back to life.

One of the many joys our 'Creator' intended for us to breathe in and tell us of the changing seasons.

For new readers, birds actions are dictated by the length of day (sunlight hours).

As is the case for all of nature.

It is still early March, and many are in the seed planting mode, or preparing for gardens.

I continue the short series on some of the more popular annuals you and I may grow.

Basics many may know already, yet so many gardeners haven't a clue.

This week, Cosmos and Sweet Alyssum.


Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima):

Actually, this is a herbaceous perennial from the Brassicaceae family. Native to Southern Europe (Mediterranean area), Alyssum is hardy in Zones 5-9, yet treated as an annual.

It grows in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.

Best with some part afternoon shade in warmer locations.

Will tolerates dryish soils for a short spell.

Sow seed directly in the ground several weeks before the last frost date.

For earlier bloom, start seed indoors 5-6 weeks before last frost date or simply purchase ready to plant, starter plants in cell packs (trays).

Set seedlings or purchased plants out just before last frost date (be sure to harden off).

Give plantings a haircut after first bloom to encourage a second flush of blooms and a bushier, healthier look.

Blooms spring to frost in cool summer climates, and well into fall some years.

Flowering and plants usually decline significantly in the dog days in hot climates of the south, at which point you should be cut back again by one half.

Your plants should revive as cooler fall temperatures arrive.

It is a mat-forming plant that produces spreading mounds of well-branched stems clad with linear, lance-shaped, gray-green leaves (to 1” long).

Plants typically grow 3-6” tall to 12” wide.

(In my Michigan climate, blooms will last into early winter if the weather is mild enough. they also re-sow for the following spring.)

Dense clusters of sweetly fragrant, tiny, white 4-petaled flowers cover the foliage mounds from spring to early summer.

Flowering is often so profuse as to totally hide the foliage.

Cultivars expand the flower color choice to include shades of pink, rose, lavender, purple and apricot.

A favorite of many bee species.

No serious insect or disease problems.

Damping off is an occasional problem with seedlings.

I use Sweet alyssum for borders as they complement my Red salvia and other flowers.

They work as fillers around roses too, as they are low enough to not cause air circulation problems, yet help to shade the soil to keep out weeds, and retain moisture.

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus):

This annual is a member of the Asteraceae family native to Mexico and southern United states.

Do well in zones 2-11

Depending on the variety, or cultivar, they grow from 1 to 6 feet (almost 2m) tall and have a spread of 2 -3 feet .5-1m).

Bloom Time is June to frost.

Single, saucer-shaped, daisy-like flowers (to 2-4” diameter) with red, pink or white rays and yellow centers bloom freely from early summer to frost.

The preference is full sun, mesic or dry-mesic conditions, and a mildly acidic to alkaline soil containing loam, clay loam, gravel, or sand.

Once the seeds germinate, growth and development is rapid.

Wild plants tend to be shorter and bloom less abundantly than garden plants in fertile soil, otherwise they appear much the same.

Directly sow seeds in the garden, or get a jump and plant seeds 6-8 weeks inside.

Garden Centers also carry these garden beauties.

Be sure to harden off any plants you purchase or grow inside.

I adore Cosmos.

Flowers perched on top of frail looking stems and airy foliage.

They seem to dance in the wind at time.

Loved by bees and butterflies.

Keep some seed heads on the plants, the finches will gobble them up.

That is worth the price of admission right there (figure of speech).

The cosmos we are most familiar with are native to Mexico.

Cosmos is a popular, low-maintenance, late-blooming, showy annual that typically grows 2-4’ tall on erect stems clad with pinnatisect, medium green leaves that are deeply cut into thread like segments.

In hot and humid summer climates, plants may slow down considerably in late summer.

Plants have escaped gardens and naturalized, particularly along roadsides, fields and waste areas.

In many parts of the U. S. Cultivars feature single, semi-double or double flowers in a larger variety of colors including white and bicolor on plants ranging in height from dwarf to tall.

There is another cosmo to look at (sorry, no pictures).

Southwest Cosmos (Cosmos parviflorus):

Southwest cosmos is native to the southwest.

It grows 2-3 feet tall and is branched several times in the upper half, with a single flower about 1 1/4 inches across, at the end of each slender, bare stem.

It has 8 pale-orchid ray flowers, with a yellow center.

An attractive flower, suitable for cultivation, and seeds are commercially available.

Leaves are threadlike, divided 2 or 3 times. It is not abundant, as it is grazed by livestock.

A nice alternative for the native gardens.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive quote for the week.

God bless.

Every day brings a choice:

To practice stress or to practice peace.

Joan Borysenko

Choose peace over stress anytime.

Here are some very wise words from Jesus.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

Do you know His Peace?

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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