Monday, August 12, 2013

Magical Morning Glories~

This is the time of the summer when the spectacular Morning Glories have reached their zenith, climbing almost any vertical surface at a surprising growth rate of up to inches a day. In direct contrast to the Moon Flower, which is the same family, the flower of the Morning Glory opens with the dawn and lasts but one day, finishing the flower cycle by evening. However since it is a prolific bloomer, there is not a summer day that does not include lovely new blooms for the entirety of the season.

Wild morning glories have been traced back to ancient China where they were used for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. The Japanese first cultivated the flower for ornamental use in the 9th century and it is celebrated in both culture and art.

Artifacts indicate that over three thousand years ago, many South American civilizations had discovered when morning glory seeds were added to the substances from the rubber tree, a bouncing rubber ball was produced. The sulfur in the seeds was the key and the ancients used the exact same process supposedly ‘discovered’ by Charles Goodyear in 1844.

The flower lasting but one day led to romantic folklore and in Victorian times the fleeting flowers represented the fickle nature of love while the profusion of new blooms symbolized the renewal nature of affection. At that time images of morning glories were used on tombstones where they were a symbol of the shortness of life.

Besides the traditional blue there are many new varieties in an astounding array of colors making this charming vine a welcome addition to any garden. With drought and poor soil tolerance, rapid growth habit, and amazing twining ability, the morning glory has long been used to shade porches, easily climbing a trellis to provide cooling relief on hot summer days.

It is an annual, meaning it must be planted each year and will die at first frost. Collection and storage of the seeds as the season progresses is economical however it should be mentioned the seeds contain an hallucinogen. For this reason the seeds are considered dangerous and must be stored away from children and pets.

*Photo Credit: Linda Perfield

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Amaryllis Belladonna

The lovely Amaryllis Belladonna, in all her glory, has been attending the garden party for the past several weeks. Commonly called ‘Naked Ladies they appear from a leafless base and are also called ‘Surprise Flowers’ for their overnight appearance in the garden from a barren spot. The stunning Naked Lady comes from a clump forming bulb. Each year the bulb will increase in size and the flowers will appear at the outermost edge so over the years one bulb becomes a mass of exquisite flowers.

The foliage appears in the garden in the very early spring and looks at first like emerging jonquil leaves. Very soon however the foliage out-grows everything around it and begins to collapse early in the season, requiring binding or staking to keep it from overshadowing its neighbors. The foliage dies away and is easily removed as dried debris late in May. The spot in the garden now appears quite bare until mid-July when suddenly the forgotten flowers begin to appear. A tall sturdy stem emerges and supports a mass of six to twelve exquisite purplish-pink flowers which have a heady and intoxicating fragrance. Flowering at irregular intervals, they add long-lasting beauty to the garden and are also a lovely cut-flower for arrangements, lasting almost a week in the cool of the house.
This wonderful plant seems undisturbed by severe growing conditions and will bloom faithfully in shade or sun regardless of the heat. The ease of these ‘Ladies’ growing habits makes even a novice gardener joyful and will add beauty and grace to any garden setting. Often planted with Shasta daisies to cover the bare base, they bloom at the same time allowing for a visual garden bouquet. As with so many of our lovely flowers this one is originally from South America where it grows in wild abandon in dry and dusty sites.

Mine arrived in my garden quite by accident. When my Daddy died in July of 1994 I was distraught and could not be comforted. I was walking in my garden the day after his funeral when the most beautiful flower I had ever seen appeared miraculously. It was the first of 12 Naked Ladies to arrive, one each day for 12 days, each in an odd place in my garden. Since no one recalled planting them my family has long maintained that my father sent them to me from Heaven.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Magnificent Mimosa


 The lovely Mimosa has begun to bloom. As the sweet scent of their flowers fills the air, we can enjoy both their fragrance and the gentle shade provided by their fern-like canopy. The Mimosa was introduced to the United States as an ornamental specimen in 1785 by Filippo Degli Albizzia, a Florentine nobleman. Arriving from Asia, it is also referred to as the Silk Tree for the texture of its flowers. The flowers appear in early summer and have long threadlike pink stamens which are white at the base. They bloom from June through July as stunning pink powder-puffs which drip with sweet nectar. Covering the trees, these blossoms attract hummingbirds, honeybees, and butterflies.

As with almost every plant and tree on the planet, the Mimosa has medicinal properties as well. The bark is a bitter and an astringent containing compounds which are used to shrink inflamed tissues. They are also used to relieve pain, and contain a sedative which was used to treat insomnia or anxiety. They increase blood circulation and thus treat heart palpations, and also act as a diuretic.

The lovely flowers were used to relieve a constrained liver and acted as an antitoxin providing a cleansing effect on the body. They have a sedative affect and were used for symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and poor memory. The concoctions made from flowers also relieved pressure in the chest and gastric pain. Apparently the spectacular Mimosa was a cure all for many ailments and it is truly a loss that the ‘recipes’ for its many uses have been lost over time.

This species of tree likes it hot and dry and thrives in the southern regions of the United States with relative ease. Used as a staple in front of Victorian homes it grows rapidly, up to three feet a year, and provides a lovely canopy of mottled shade allowing the grass to grow underneath the branches. With its stunning flowers it is a fantastic addition to the landscape regardless of the fact it is considered a chore to clean up after lest it become invasive.

The fruit-like seed pod, which may require management, can produce over two hundred thousand seeds each year. However with the ease of today’s mowers, it is not a chore to simply collect and discard the pods during regular mowing. Plan on weeding the young seedlings from the flower beds and enjoy the beauty of this exquisite tree.