Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ipomoea alba: Moonflower....6" Fragrant Nightblooming

I still maintain that this is the only indispensable annual. Inconstant in many regards, I am unwavering on this point. Ask me my favorite plant and I'll tell you I don't have one and then list half a dozen. Ask me the next day. I'll still tell you I don't have one and I'll list a different 6 plants or 5 or 7...But moonflowers are different. I don't even know why. It would be hard to imagine summer nights without them. Large and white and fragrant, they attract light and moths; their perfume is light but not daintily floral, almost spicy with a bite. And the big bonus: the flowers open so quickly you can watch them. Pour a glass of wine and position yourself in view of the plant as dusk settles. Drink and wait. Be careful though, the flowers open so quickly that if you have to run inside for a refill, you could miss the whole thing. If that happens repeat the process the next day but bring the bottle outside with you.

They're slow developing often not producing flowers until well into July. I expect that's my own fault. If I started seeds early I could get them out early....But I usually don't and maybe the anticipation is part of the experience. The vines grow rapidly once they are established; I grow one in a pot beside the front door and after it has done its job of covering the trellis and hiding the electric meter, just for fun it races another 10' to the top of the second floor windows. The literature suggests that it can grow to near 100' in the tropics.

Moonflower is native to the American tropics and has naturalized in parts of Florida. It is tempting to plant it in the Florida garden, but it is considered a noxious week in Hawaii and though Wildwood is not Hawaii, I think I'll just keep growing it as an annual.

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