Twenty five years ago, a gardener in California sent me some seeds of a cosmos that had turned up in her garden. She enclosed a picture which showed a flower with the petals fused into a cup. Lovely. I sowed some of the seed and sent the rest to Thompson & Morgan for them to assess.
Unfortunately, very few of the plants I grew produced cup-shaped flowers. The same thing happened at T&M and, although they spent a few years trying to purify the strain so that all the plants produced cup shaped flowers, they couldn’t do it. So the project lapsed.
Then in 2007 T&M again received seed from Diane Engdahl of Santa Rosa, California. This time T&M breeder Charles Valin was able to create a strain in which all the flowers were cupped. It took almost ten years until ‘Cupcakes Mixed’ was released - with plants in white and various shades of pink. Now, the white has been isolated from the other colours and it’s one of the loveliest annuals you can grow. In appreciation of introducing T&M to this new development, they offered Diane a gift – she chose a horsebox, which was duly supplied to her over in California!
I grew ‘Cupcakes White’ this year and, although it was a little late to start flowering, it’s proved very prolific and was still producing its pure white cups in late October. The plants are tall, about 90cm–1.2m (3–4ft), and rather leafy, but the pure white is so much more effective in the garden than the mixture. Some flowers are simply cupped, others have a ring of shorter slender petals around the eye. It last well in water and everyone to whom I’ve given a bouquet of ‘Cupcakes White’ has been enchanted.
In fact ‘Cupcakes White’ was so popular in last year’s display on the Trials Field at RHS Garden Wisley that visitors voted it People’s Choice.
You can order seed of Cosmos ‘Cupcakes White’ from Thompson & Morgan.