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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A little flower magic by Kaye Spencer

[NOTE: This post is a variation of the original one I wrote for another blog a couple of months ago. I'm re-sharing it here because it is timely to the current Halloween-themed anthology releases from Prairie Rose Publications.]

My story contribution to the Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico Anthology, Volume 2For Love of a Brystile Witch—involves a hereditary witch for whom fate brings the last living male descendant of the judge who condemned her grandmother, of 10 generations in the past, to hang as a witch. In creating the heroine’s home, I drew upon three of my personal interests, which are paganism, witchcraft, and medicinal herbal lore. I have an extensive collection of resources on these subjects and, some of what I know, I learned first-hand from my maternal grandfather. Although it was never said outright, as I look back on my childhood and teen years, I realize my grandfather was probably a solitary practitioner of 'pagan' beliefs. As a youngster, I knew the community thought he was odd and eccentric, but they seemed to accept his oddness with amused acceptance.

But back to my heroine’s story…

Since she supports herself by selling the tinctures, salves, oils, powders, etc. that she makes from the plants she grows, I managed to work in a line about how she uses the essential oil from the orange cosmos flower.

While cosmos flowers have no particular herbal or medicinal attributes other than attracting certain insects that prey on 'worse' insects, the flower does attract fairies (I didn't include that in the story.) The main reason to grow cosmos in your yard or garden is for their powerful influence in sorting out life's confusions and for helping to put everyday 'things' in order. These flowers offer the 'gift' of integrating body and spirit to keep them in sync with each other, while also assisting with a person's clarity of thinking (as in keeping a sharp focus).

Although the flowers have a light, barely discernible scent, cosmos are not for picking or confining in a vase in the middle of the dining room table on display. These flowers are free spirits meant to be treasured in their natural environment. They are a silent flower, meaning they make no sound in the wind when they rub against each other—they keep your secrets.

Cosmos are low-maintenance perennials that thrive in adverse conditions of poor soil and little water, but they do need a lot of sunlight. They bloom in late June to mid-July and will continue to bloom through frost. Once the flowers dry up, the seeds are available for hand-harvesting. Store the harvested seeds in such a way that they can dry out before putting them in a paper sack until ready to plant. You don't want them to mold. Stored seeds are still viable after several years of dormancy. If you plant a new bed of cosmos, just scratch them into the ground, and lightly cover with dirt to keep birds from eating the seeds.

The word 'cosmos' derives from the Greek 'kosmos', which means order and harmony and also 'the world'. Cosmos are considered group flowers because each individual flower grows close to its neighbor to offer the strength of community effort to withstand the onslaught of the wind. To take this farther, cosmos flowers embody a balance of the magical elements of Air, Fire, Earth, and Water, in that order, and here is why...

At its heart, the cosmos is a flower of the wind. It thrives in windy conditions, which makes it a perfect prairie flower, which is where I live. It is a tall plant that reaches toward the sky and will often grow to chest high, especially the pastels of the pink, purple, red, and white varieties. The orange variety, which is my favorite, has a different leaf structure from the pastels and does not grow as tall. All colors of flower heads sway in a graceful dance in the tiniest of breezes. The stalks are flexible, yet strong enough to withstand even strong winds. The foliage is fernlike, which gives it an airy quality. The blossoms, though delicate, flutter with the wind rather than take succumb to the wind's battering. The seeds are well-adapted to blowing in the wind for distribution.

Cosmos thrive in hot, sun-beaten conditions with little shade or even a lack of shade. It seems they 'look' for places to grow that expose them to the heat and light of the sun without even the tiniest hope respite from the heat. In the wild, cosmos choose to thrive in dry and sunbaked, ground, and they prosper during the hottest, driest time of the year, which is during the height of the summer and into early autumn. The blossoms expand up and then outwards in the manner of the sun's rays. The centers of each flower are dark to flame-yellow, and the blossoms tend to orient their faces towards the sun. When the woody stems dry after frost, they can be used as fire-starter material.

The main stem of the cosmos flower appears spindly and willowy, but are actually thick, tough, and woody. They have a strong connection to the Earth element because of their expansive root system, which is in counterbalance to their tall, branching stems, thus allowing the plant to resist uprooting by wind.

Because the cosmos plant is made up of thin, flat, dry-to-the-feel leaves with stems that offer minimal area for transpiration or moisture retention, and that the plant physically needs little water to thrive, the element of Water is the lesser of the elemental attributes. However, when water is available, the cosmos takes full advantage and does not waste a drop. Since the cosmos is in full bloom in the late summer/early autumn and is considered an autumn flower, the Water element is actually strong in it because the ancient Celtic calendar associates autumn with the element of Water.

Sadly, my cosmos patches have all but dried up as we move farther into the autumn season. I'll wait until spring arrives to pull up the old stalks to make way for the new sprouts, because many 'critters' find shelter throughout the winter in the dense midst of the flower beds.

Until next month,


Fall in love...faster, harder, deeper with Kaye Spencer romances
Twitter - @kayespencer

**Pictures from Kaye's back yard**
Note - for more information about Cosmos flowers, visit: and

Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico, Volumes 1 & 2
available on Amazon and other on-line book distributors


  1. Oh Kaye, what a wonderful piece of information about one of my favorite flower. The whole early earth traditions make for a great read. I have been intrigued with the whole society that was built around those beliefs. Even as far back as high school ( and that was FAR back) I was researching and writing about it. Nice to know someone else who is also interested. Thank you for the post and the tie-in to your story. Sounds like a fascinating read. Doris

    1. Doris,

      My high school years are in the far distant past, also. *wink* I have incorporated a smattering of the "Old Earth" beliefs in other stories. I'd like to include more, but it seems my stories end up going other directions. lol

  2. Kaye, I love this. My dad was the gardener in our family--he loved it and knew all about it. My oldest sister had a "knack" for it, as well, and loved yard work. She knew every kind of flower there was. Sadly, I did not get "the gift". I've seen these before and thought they were beautiful (I do love wildflowers so much!) I might be able to grow these!

    1. Cheryl,

      My mom is the 'green thumb' in my family, which she evidently inherited from my grandpa. My thumb is more brown than green. There's a saying that applies to me: It's a wonder my kids managed to grow up because I couldn't keep a houseplant alive. lol Cosmos flowers are hardy and will thrive pretty much on their own, so that's why they are the perfect yard flower for me. ;-)

  3. Kaye, I love your blog today. I am interested in natural things. The idea of growing a flower that adds peace and order into ones life is very appealing. Perhaps in today's world if we would reach for things from nature that are of the four elements, air, fire, earth and water, our lives would be so much simpler and we would have a less medicated society.

    1. Barb, I agree wholeheartedly that there is so much to learn from the natural world in relation to healing and wellness. I find I'm turning to herbal remedies more and more.

  4. Oh, boy, do I need to plant cosmos all over the place around here. :-D

    I've seen them in the wild, where they're lovely, but never thought about giving them a place of honor in my garden. I'm currently trying to figure out what to plant in the small front yard instead of grass. (Did I mention I'm not a fan of grass, at least down here, because it's not meant to be here, doesn't like it here, and consequently is a pain to grown here?) Would cosmos work?

    One of my grandmothers was a huge believer in natural remedies and the power of plants to heal not only the body, but also the spirit. She lived a long, vibrant life.

    Thanks for this post, Kaye! It's a winner. :-)

  5. Kathleen,

    Cosmos flowers are particularly suited for ground in which nothing else wants to grow. My 'hill' (fondly named Little Round Top) in my backyard is a combination of gravel, little chunks of left-over cement, and lousy dirt. The hill was an eyesore, but the effort of loading the dirt a shovel-full at a time into the back of my pickup to haul off was not appealing, so I raked in cosmos seeds and solved my ugliness problem. I do throw out a pre-emergent weed killer in the spring and a put on a little fertilizer every couple of years, but that's the extent of the maintenance.

    Fair warning, though... Cosmos flowers produce a plethora of seeds in the fall. You'll have flowers popping up all over the place the following spring(s).

    1. They sound perfect! The front yard, which is tiny and enclosed by the traditional "white picket fence" set behind beds confined by a short block wall, is composed of a thin layer of soil overlying sand -- which is the natural environment all over the island. I'll give them a try. Self-seeding is sooooooo not a problem. If they escape, so much the better. :-)

      Thanks for the info!

  6. Kaye, this is such a great post. I've always had cosmos for the very reason they last in Wyoming winds and sun. They're such a pretty little flower, too. And I'll take any peace or order they offer. :)

    1. Kirsten,

      I must have the most "Zen happy" cats on the planet because they spend a lot of time nestled down in the center of the cosmos beds. It stays cool in there during the heat of the summer and the cats are pretty sure they're 'invisible'. lol

  7. Kaye,
    A wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!!