Amazon Celosia may give you the flower farm fever!
Mississippi Gardens Newspaper and Web Column - September 29, 2003
Flower farms are so uncommon in our state that I am quite sure most Mississippians have not had the awesome experience of seeing one. Three years ago I made my first visit to a 20-acre flower farm near Austin, Texas and I have not been the same since. Maybe it's my age or maybe it's the gardener in me that loves the experience of viewing the rainbow of colors found in flower fields. I can't help it; I think I've got the flower farm "fever"!
It's not hard to get this feeling, especially after visiting one of Mississippi's own cut flower farms located in George County. David Courtney and his daughter Lisa Wagner were harvesting flowers for their customers in Ocean Springs when I stopped by to check their progress. A portion of their huge field containing vegetables and cotton was dedicated to their cut flower operation. There were zinnias in a gorgeous array of yellow, red, white and purple along with some strawberry-colored Gomphrena, dazzling sunflowers and an assortment of colorful celosias. I was discussing the beautiful condition of the crop with Mr. Courtney when I heard the sound of hummingbirds chirping excitedly in a huge bank of Cramer's Amazon Celosia. I had to get some pictures of this up close.
It's not everyday that I find myself situated in a hedgerow of flowering annuals that stand above my head. Many of the stems of Cramer's Amazon were at least 7 feet tall and spiked with deep magenta colored blooms. Besides the outstanding appearance, it was like standing in a hummingbird airport with the excited creatures buzzing and chirping overhead. They were chasing one another as if there weren't enough celosia nectar for all. It was fun to watch them. The butterflies, on the other hand, were also enjoying the scene, but with a much more relaxed approach, taking their time to enjoy each flower. It was really beautiful.
This scenario could easily be repeated in your own back yard next summer. Cramer's Amazon Celosia is an easy plant to grow if it is provided with a sunny location, moderate fertility and well-drained soil. Celosia is probably best greenhouse grown and transplanted into warm garden soil, but it can also be directly sown. Get started by early to mid-April, since it takes 120 to 150 days for Cramer's Amazon to flower. Pinch-prune the plants when they are about 12 inches tall and they will produce a dozen or more stems per plant and a huge number of flowers to go with them. You'll have great fun growing this tropical beauty in your landscape, just watch out for low flying hummingbirds! Happy Gardening!
These archived columns were written by Kerry Johnson<, a hobby gardener, former weekly newspaper columnist and retired Extension Horticulture Agent for 11 coastal counties in Mississippi.