Flora and Fungi

When the Cosmos Speaks in Orange

“Orange is the colour of truth.”

– Anthony T. Hincks

 

I’ve always loved orange. My favorite color is black, actually, but that’s for a whole separate post. (It’s not a stretch to see how someone like me would adore Halloween, huh?) But Orange. Orange somehow makes me feel grounded, centered, comforted. It’s that color that rings closest to pure for me. I’m not really sure why. The best explanation I can retrieve, from the depths of my inner self, is that orange conjures up memories of fall and memories of fall equate, in my heart, to Thanksgiving dinner around my grandparents’ table. Truth be told, a bit of sadness often wells within me when the orange is traded for Christmas red.

I think that’s one of my most favorite memories…Thanksgiving dinner. When we celebrated at my grandparents’ house, there were always ten of us. Two old, four mid and four young humans packed around a table in a dining room that had way too much furniture residing in it. And it was always just a smidge too warm in the house, but you wore a sweater anyway, and the whole space smelled like giblet gravy. And there was china on the table and laughter and delicate goblets and the clinking of silverware and pride seeping from every pore of my grandma’s skin over the quality of her cornbread dressing. And there was always pie with Kraft® Cool Whip. I remember one particular Thanksgiving in high school where I went out back by myself to gather pecans from under their massive tree. My grandma spent three-quarters of pecan season cursing squirrels in her head, but NEVER out of her mouth, so I’m sure I was out there trying to get a jump on things to help out. I was wearing a cream-colored sweater that J. had bought for me as a gift, jeans and brown Bass loafers, if any of you from the early 90s remember those. The sky was a perfect warmth of gray with a nip in the air. As I dropped pecans one by one into the paper sack, I remember feeling so thankful, so blessed, so loved and so nearest to God in the most defined place of contentment I can recall over the entire course of my life. Sometimes when I need grounding now, I go back to that place in my mind, step into that yard and just live Thanksgiving at Grandma and Grandpa’s for a few minutes. It was the one place where there were no expectations. In THAT place…you were simply embraced. You might have heard of this thing. It’s called unconditional love. It’s why, I suppose, when the universe speaks to my soul, it uses orange words.

So, you can only imagine how the color orange in my garden brings me great joy, and especially orange at this time of year. It’s like a double win! If you are looking for the perfect fall orange in your landscape, my all-time favorite winner is the old-fashioned Tall Orange Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus). I have literally been waiting for weeks now for our stand to open up in the pollinator garden, watching with high anticipation as buds began to form everywhere across the crowns of dozens of plants.  Finally, this week, after the turn of the autumnal equinox, which happened to fall on my birthday, the buds all opened into a stunning array of contentment.

 

The best thing about including this flower in your garden, is that you just don’t have to work at it. You sow seeds, sit back and watch them come up. In North Texas you can either sow in the fall before the first frost or wait until spring and sow in early March. We literally started with two or three plants last season that came up from a mixed wildflower packet, and this year we have DOZENS! I mean…why only have a sprinkle of joy when you can douse yourself in it??? And it is a true favorite of pollinators.

If that still doesn’t sell you, then let me say that the Orange Cosmos is the perfect compliment to your humanitarian efforts. If you are looking for ways to become more sustainable in your gardening efforts and not spend hard-earned resources buying plants, you can easily harvest seeds from one single plant and share them to other areas of your garden. You will even have so many seeds that you could #plantsharenow with friends! Just wait for the flowers to die back and you will see long, spear-like seeds develop where the petals once were. Just knock them off into a paper bag, and you’re done!

 

Now, I will admit that if you are a person requiring “order” in your garden, this might not be the plant for you. Our Cosmos definitely push J.’s sense of appropriate boundaries. Their stems intertwine like unkempt toddler hair, some will insist on raising their hands while the rest of the class sits quietly and they aren’t terribly considerate of stepping aside for sidewalk dog-walkers or scooter riders.

 

But, I have to say, I believe contentment often reveals itself in spaces a little less ordered and peace resides outside the boundaries, where you simply let go and embrace the tangles. So dog-walkers beware! You’ll just have to step over the Cosmos or pass around it. Or, even better, you COULD allow the petals to brush up against you…as you walk straight through.

 

All the best,

A.J.

– All Content Photos by Amanda J. Schulz

 

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