I thought I’d share what’s been keeping me perky in the mornings because it’s a plant that’s perfect for “night gardening” – although it has greeted me every morning on my way out the door since it started blooming a month ago. Moonflower.
This annual vine must have been sent directly from heaven. The blooms are the biggest, most intoxicatingly scented flowers I think I’ve ever encountered in my time gardening. I’m sure there are other magestic blooms out there more deserving of praise, but this is the one causing the most excitement in my garden right now.
The twisted budds open just as the light is beginning to wane in the evening – the glorious gloaming – and shine all night long and into the morning, only to close as day gets going. That’s it — each flower lasts for just one night. And if you try to pick one (as I always do and always find myself disappointed even though I know what will happen), the bloom literally melts in your hand, closing tight and withering within minutes. It’s all worth it for those few moments, sticking my face full into the bloom so its texture and scent envelops my senses.
I know that in just a few weeks, maybe sooner, the entire vine will succumb to frost, but that won’t stop me from growing it every single year. It’s that great.
I’m promising myself to think about Moonflowers earlier next spring, because every year I start my seeds entirely too late. In the last week of May, after the gardening world is busy and bustling, I belately drag out my Moonflower seeds to get them going. It’s all about planning. If there’s advice I can give new gardeners that I had to learn the hard way, it’s planning. Get on the computer or (in my case) grab pencil and paper and think about what kind of garden you want next year. Try not to focus on the failures of the past year, but celebrate the successes. If you create the garden of your dreams on paper, then it is much easier to bring it to reality.
Some tips on growing Moonflowers:
They have extremely hard seed coats, the ones garden books tell you to nick or soak before planting. Not only are they hard, but they’re also quite smooth and slippery – difficult to get a knife to dig in to nick it without taking off a finger while you’re at it. CAREFULLY nick the seed coat (I find a serrated knife blade gets a better grip), then soak them in water overnight. They’ll swell a little, so don’t be alarmed to find large swollen nuggets in place of your seeds in the morning! The only thing left to do is plant them an inch or so deep, water, and watch the glorious vines to take over your porch, trellis, or arbor.
If you allow the flowers to develop pods after they’ve bloomed, you can harvest the seeds for next year once the pods have dried and turned brown.