Gardening: Flowers big in 1935 blooming in popularity

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News
Cosmos are gaining in popularity again.

I came across a 1935 edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine in my “pile of paper” and it’s a fascinating view of gardening and life 80 or so years ago. Most gardeners grew plants from seed and annuals, along with gladiolus and dahlias, were popular choices.  Seed packets ran anywhere from a dime to 4 packs for 10 cents. 

The big buzz in garden design this season is pollinator and cut flower gardens, and long season flowering annuals are a big part of the mix, so flowers popular in 1935 are back in style big time. 

Zinnias, salvias and cosmos are hot, and we grow them all in the OPC display garden in Rochester. Spend the time to keep them dead-headed and most flower through out the growing season. 

To get the color coming ASAP, we plant premium six packs and 4 ½ inch pots.  Last summer we discovered our cosmos had also self-sown, probably from seed dropped the previous summer, and by the end of August these seed-grown plants were also beginning to bloom – they put on a fabulous fall show, while the spring planted cosmos were beginning to struggle.  So, this year I’m going to sow cosmos seed as well as use starter plants. 

I also plan to plant an annual pollinator garden in an area we call “the work in progress.” It’s hidden behind a brick wall and is low on our priority list, so it currently contains a flotsam and jetsam of donated perennials yet to find permanent homes. But there’s a special event scheduled in the garden for the summer solstice, so we need to spiffy it up.  

One of those wild flower gardens, often referred to a meadow in a can, would be a perfect solution, but seeds planted in spring will not have time to flower for the big show.  My friend George Popadelis, owner of Telly’s Garden Center in Troy, advised against this method of growing as the seed is usually sown too thickly and the plants fail to thrive due to over-crowding and competition with weeds.  He suggested we start with small six packs and spacing is key. Our wild flower garden just got smaller.

That said, my passion for cosmos has not waned and I’ll plant seed of some of the fabulous varieties not available in garden centers. Select Seeds (  carries more than a dozen types. However, it takes anywhere from 75 to 90 days for cosmos to bloom.   My fall garden will be spectacular.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at