As summer tumbles into autumn, there are a number of garden flowers that come into their own, some of which are especially good for pollinating insects.

We’ll delve into the world of the Michaelmas daisy rather closer to Michaelmas (which is 29th September) but I thought today I’d share an easy-to-grow flower that is currently splashing dollops of pink, magenta and ruby tones in my garden. We’re talking Cosmos.

In fact, there are three main types of garden flower within the genus Cosmos, all of which are worth growing in the garden.

1. Cosmos bipinnatus

This is the most familiar Cosmos – and the one I have in my garden. It is an annual flower, sown in spring and starting to flower in June but coming into their own from about now through to the frosts. It is glorious.

There are many different cultivars, with most having flowers in shades of pink but with a few lemony- and yellow-petalled cultivars and some of the purest white such as a beauty called Purity.

The flowers themselves are 6-8cm across, a simple flat whorl of showy petals around a small central disc in yellow, the part of the flower where pollinators will feed. Here are some of my visitors on just one patch of my flowers this week.

There were bumblebees...

...leafcutter bees...

...and (bee experts, please correct me if I'm wrong) what I think is the red-banded form of the Common Furrow Bee:

Cosmos bipinnatus has tall, upright stems that are strong enough to stand up to most winds without flopping on you; if you have a small or especially exposed garden, there are now dwarf varieties, too. What then makes Cosmos bipinnatus extra special is the foliage, whose fine featheriness is a wonderful foil for the flowers.

Annual seed mixtures sometimes contain this Cosmos, while a pack of pure bipinnatus seeds will only cost you a couple of quid and give you loads of blooms. Give them a place in full sun and a soil that isn’t too wet and they should reward you magnificently.

2. Cosmos atrosanguineus

This Cosmos is often known simple as Chocolate Cosmos because its scent really is like a bar of Cadbury’s. Mmmmm! The flowers aren’t quite as large and have a more rounded, velvety look to them, and the whole plant is rather shorter.

Here's one with an attendant Honeybee I photographed a few years ago:

It is a perennial, so not one that you need to sow every year, but it is a touch on the tender side so if you get regular frosts this is one you’ll need to bring into a greenhouse over winter. Typically, it is only available as plants rather than seeds, although you can sometimes pick up some very expensive seeds of a variety called Black Magic.

3. Cosmos sulphureus

This third type of garden Cosmos comes in bright yellows, oranges and reds and looks more like a tall, bushy African or French marigold. Sorry, I don't have photos as it is the least popular of the three and in my experience is not quite such as winner with pollinators as the other two types. Also, the varieties on sale tend to be 'doubles' with those unwelcome extra petals, but it is still worth a try if you've got a hot theme going on in your borders.

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So, if you have yet to do so, do give Cosmos a try in the garden next year.

Oh, and before I leave you to get on with planning your bee-filled borders, why the name 'Cosmos'? Is it the same word as our alternative name for the Universe? Well, yes, and no! The Greek word Kosmos meant a number of things, including world, universe, and ornament, all with an underpinning feeling of order. The plant was named really in the sense of it being ornamental, in a beautiful and orderly way, but it still means the world to me and my bees!

  

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