Following up on last night's post about Celosia garden sports, here's a really odd, yet attractive one that Fernymoss was attracted to because of its "joined hands" near the bottom of the bloom. It's obviously a cross between one of the common red plumosa varieties available (often referred to as 'Castle Red or Yellow') and a relatively recent cultivar called 'New Look,' which features brilliant red plumes carried on compact (6-8 inch) plants with reddish foliage and stems. You can see the parentage in the leaves where the reddish hue and veining is somewhat pronounced in this specimen. Unfortunately this detail doesn't show the top of the bloom, which is a bit more like a smaller cristata (cockscomb) variety. (Though Fernymoss did take some shots of the top, none of them turned out well enough to use here, so you'll have to wait a bit to get a peek at that, but my first impression was that it looked like a lobster waving, while the "hands" are "joined" lower down.)
Ok, so why plant Celosia? Whether you choose the Cristata varieties, with its large "brainy" headed flowers often 5-6 inches across, or the smaller varieties, it's guaranteed fire in the garden during the hottest months of summer! They positively thrive in conditions when everything else is looking a bit "burned out" and grow well in full sun whether you have average, poor, to even clay soil in the garden. They're not picky and once you've got them established (you should give them regular waterings while they're settling in) they're incredibly drought and heat tolerant. Once they start blooming they're incredibly long lasting flowers, which if you just leave them alone, will eventually fade and drop their seed after frost, virtually guaranteeing you'll see more of them the following spring. I should note that as long as the seed stays in the ground over the winter, it will generally germinate, however don't look for them until later in the spring, because they tend to come up only when the ground has warmed sufficiently and all danger of frost is past.
The larger 'Cockscomb' variety is a great plant to dry for arrangements and will last a couple of years if dried properly. You merely need to cut the whole plant down (or just pull it up) late in the fall (or while it's at its maximum depth of colour), hang it upside down in a dry place (preferably a dry basement or somewhere out of direct light) and wait for it to dry out completely. It's also best to remove all leaves and just retain the stalk with the bloom intact. Of course, should you choose to do so just keep in mind that once fully dried it will drop its seeds (and they're tiny ones!), so you might want to place something underneath it to catch them. As long as the plant has matured sufficiently over the season, you should be able to store these seeds and plant them the following spring ... or better yet, just broadcast them (in the fall after the first hard frost) in an area of the garden where you'd like to see them the next year. Though they might not all come up, they have a very high germination rate, so you'll probably be forced to thin the seedlings out at some point to ensure the biggest specimens possible.
We've found that while the large Cristata argentea variety tends to come back 'true' to the parent plant, all bets are off when it concerns the smaller varieties, such as those seen in these past few posts. But that's one of the really fun things about Celosia ... if you're not expecting exactly what you planted the previous year, you may be rewarded with the odd sports and mutants, thanks to the many bees, butterflies and other insects who tend to congregate on these flowers.