The Story of the Orange Sulphur Cosmos (Guest Author Post!)

Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Essays From My Farmhouse Kitchen

The Story of the Orange Sulphur Cosmos

Gardens are really a sanctuary for everyone. It is a place to dream, create, work up a sweat pulling those ever present weeds or just enjoy the luxury of the outdoors.

My gardens do live up to my expectations, because the only thing I want from them is a place to grow plants, to delight in each flower during their season of blossoming and just have a place to dillydally on a beautiful day. There really are no rules to my gardening, except to ENJOY!!!!

Gardening in this free style way is full of surprises.  When I raked off the plant debris early this spring, I was surprised to see these little flowers I call Johnny Jump-Ups blooming. This perky little plant kept surprising me all summer by popping up in many locations in the garden and blooming every day in many different shades.  This is one self-sowing plant I do enjoy.

I can’t really say I despise the Wormwood plant. It is beautiful and fills in spaces where there are no plants, yet. But when this gigantic almost bush plant seemed to be interfering with my Johnny Jump-Ups plans for invasion, some of them had to be dug out. Oofta, they reminded that my abhorrence towards exercise may not be a good thing especially at my age.

My grandchildren recently explained to a visiting guest that she had to be a bit understanding because I was really, really REALLY OLD!!!! Ooh, the raw honesty of those youngsters….

Each year there are old flowers to welcome back and new flowers to enjoy.  One of my absolute favorites this year came from Angela Dykstra. She’s the one that has those cheerful orange flowers that bloom by the stop sign on Seventh Street.

I finally presumed upon our friendship to ask for a source of those seeds. She was so kind and saved seeds from last year’s harvest to share with me. Just like her grandma did for her.

Angela’s grandmother, Christine Elster Peterson began her married life as a farmer’s wife. Like many young couples they hoped that with hard work and very frugal living they would be able to make a living off the land. For six years they put forth their best effort in South Dakota. 

I can imagine that when the hail storms came along with the financial difficulties of the early 1930’s, she would head out to her garden, to pray. 

These bright orange blossoms, which sway in the slightest breeze, would cheer her. She could return to her mundane daily chores reminded that her Lord understood and He was still taking care of them. 

When the crops failed again, it became evident that they needed to leave the farm. In their preparations to move, she carefully saved seeds from her favorite outdoor flowers. The flowers were a part of the farm she could take to town.

Her husband secured a job in Sioux Falls. It wasn’t the life she imagined, but she loved and stood by her man through those difficult times because she believed the words in the Holy Bible “Thus far has God helped us” despite the fact that their present situation seemed to dictate otherwise. 

Christine Elster Peterson was not one to feel sorry for herself. She got busy making their new house in town a home that was a haven for her husband after a hard day at his job, and their family that eventually grew to include six children. 

Many flowers grew under her careful tending both outside and inside her home. Her delicious homemade bread seemed to say ‘I love you’ in every bite. 

These vibrant orange flowers remind me to persevere through tough times and never to lose faith. Thank you, Angela Dykstra, for sharing the flowers and story of your grandma. Through you we are reminded that a grandparent’s influence is important.

Renae B. Vander Schaaf is an independent writer, author and speaker. Please contact her at 605-530-0017 or

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