No, we’re not just talking about sitting and eating chocolate in the garden, although this is a great thing to do….especially Toblerones….I love Toblerones, especially the big white chocolate one (going off track here!). No, we’re talking about a wonderful Cosmos which has chocolate scented flowers!
The chocolate cosmos or Cosmos atrosanguineus to give it its botanical name is a sensational plant, native to Mexico, for around containers in the garden, not strong enough to fill the garden with perfume but strong enough that when you sniff the flowers you get a real smell of farm chocolate - but don’t try to eat them, all parts of the plant are poisonous.
The flowers are deep maroon in colour, a real rich maroon and stand out well when combined with bright coloured foliages of other plants such as golds and silvers, or play with the dark colours of these flowers and plant them with black grasses - you’ll see this combination in the gardens of Cluain na tdor in Falcarragh, home to renowned plantsman Seamus O’Donnel and open as part of the Donegal Garden Trail.
In my own garden we have these chocolate cosmos planted into pots, and use the around the back garden, ideally suited to a site in dappled shade and frequent watering. Flowering each year you can easily propagate more from division to build your stock in the garden. In my own garden I grow these in the pots as they are easier to protect from very cold winters, simply placing the containers into the polytunnel in the early winter, but these plants are relatively hardy and in all but the coldest of gardens will happily exist for many years. When you think about ‘hardiness’ of these just think about Dahlias, which come from the same part of the world.
Cosmos are actually quite famous in the plant world, having been brought into cultivation by William Thompson in the mid 1800’s (a founder of Thompson & Morgan seed house) from Mexico and commonly reported as being extinct in the wild, with the famous Kew Gardens having the only sizeable collection from which all modern plants are clones!
So this weekend keep an eye out at the gardens for a plant which will not only flower for months in the garden, but will also be a real talking point in the garden.