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Chocolate cosmos? Smell it and see why.

Chocolate cosmos? Smell it and see why

"Chocolate without the calories" is how one Northwest gardener describes it. Named for its fragrance, chocolate cosmos (C. atrosanguineus) can smell like dark chocolate or salute passers-by with a light floral scent. What you get depends on the weather, the sniffer, and the condition of the flowers. However it smells, this cosmos is ultimately a good garden plant. And because a few Western growers have become interested in it, you have a fair chance of buying it this year, both by mail order and from retail nurseries. Before now, it's been extremely hard to find, even from perennial growers. Unlike C. bipinnatus, a taller annual cousin, chocolate cosmos is an herbaceous perennial. Leaves emerge late in spring, though plants you buy from nurseries may have been forced to sprout earlier.

Where to plant chocolate cosmos

Place plants in a sunny, well-drained part of the garden (roots rot in soggy soil) and in late summer you'll have dark red flowers atop stems extending well above the foliage. They make good cut flowers. With first frosts, foliage dies to the ground, leaving only the plant's tuberous roots. To keep track of where the tubers are in winter and to avoid accidentally cutting into them, mark the base of each plant when you set it out. Divide roots after a few years. Carefully dig and cut them in half, leaving at least one eye on each tuber. Though chocolate cosmos is native to Mexico, it can handle all but the coldest western climate zones. Last year, plants survived 10 [degrees] in the Northwest with no problems. To be safe, mulch before hard freezes come.

PHOTO : Convincing chocolate fragrance distinguishes perennial cosmos. Flowers rise well above

PHOTO : plant's foliage

PHOTO : Mahogany red daisies are 1 1/2 inches wide, one to a stem. They hold up very well as cut

PHOTO : flowers
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Date:Apr 1, 1990
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