Tag Archives: heirloom flowers

Flowers for the Evening: Four O’ Clocks

yellow four o’ clocks in my garden, 8:30 pm

A few years ago my family visited Monticello in the summer. I was struck by how large Thomas Jefferson’s four o’ clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) were compared to mine. I also liked the fact that it was a plant he grew and wrote about in his journal. These heirloom flowers are still grown today.

Although I had a few small plants in dry, lean soil in full sun, I was inspired to start new plants from seed. I planted them in very rich soil, in an area of the garden that received morning sun and afternoon shade. They thrived and grew to be about 2 feet tall with light green leaves and many yellow or pink blossoms.

Although they are named for opening at 4:00 pm, mine never do. The blossoms are sensitive to light and temperature and prefer to open when the evening cools down, closer to 7:00 pm in my garden. They stay open all night long. In the fall, they develop large black seeds that are very easy to pick and save.

flower begins to open in evening

Flower colors come in pink, white, red, yellow, magenta, or mixed, liked speckled. They are tender perennials which means they will grow as perennials in the south. In my zone 7 garden, they should grow as annuals but mine must be in a special micro-climate because mine come back every year.  For people who are north of me, they can try to dig and save the tubers for next year, or start new seed next year. I have a friend who says they are considered aggressive in southern Virginia but I have not had any issues with mine. I heard a horticulturist at a public garden in Atlanta, GA, say that they grow them for the evening visitors, who come to walk the gardens when the temperatures have cooled down.

Four o’ clocks were cultivated and selected for various colors by the Aztecs prior to the Spanish Conquest. They were then introduced to Spain and England and were in cultivation in Europe for about 200 years before Linnaeus first described the species in 1753. Thomas Jefferson received his from France. In July 1767, he noted in his journal “Mirabilis just opened, very clever.”

Try these heirloom plants for an evening garden. The seed are very easy to save so you may see some at seed swaps but if not, try these seed companies.

pink four o’ clocks at Monticello, early afternoon

Heirloom Flowers: Four O’Clocks

yellow four o’clocks in my garden, 8:30 pm

A few years ago my family visited Monticello in the summer. I was struck by how large Thomas Jefferson’s four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) were compared to mine. I also liked the fact that it was a plant he grew and could still be grown today as an heirloom. Continue reading

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Heavenly Blue Morning Glory

Morning glories are well known and popular; they need little description. I plant them every year along a wooden banister. Their brightly colored faces greet me in the morning as I go to work. By summer’s end, they have become close friends with the other plants, clasping their thin tendrils around the branches of neighboring shrubs and perennials.

Growing morning glories from seed is easy if you bypass that hard seed coat. Either soak the seeds in water overnight before planting or nick the seed coat with a file to allow water to permeate. I start my seeds by soaking in water and then planting in a small plastic cup with soil, under lights in my house. I start in late April and transplant after last frost, typically after Mother’s Day here in Virginia. Morning glory seeds can be direct sown but I do not have luck with that. They do need support so make sure they are planted in a place where the tendrils can clasp on to something.

Each year, I try different varieties and this year it was Heavenly Blue from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Heavenly Blue is an heirloom with bright blue flowers and a white throat. Other varieties have pink, white, magenta, or purple flower colors. I have even grown morning glories with variegated green and white foliage.

Morning glories have to be grown in full sun in order for the flowers to open up in the morning. They prefer well-drained soil, not too rich or one gets more foliage than flowers.

Even though I associate morning glories with summer they can often start blooming later in the season. Some people call them “back to school” vines because they seem to start (finally!) blooming in the fall.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day occurs on the 15th of the month. Garden bloggers around the world post their articles about blossoms in their garden. #gardenbloggersbloomday

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Four O’Clocks

yellow four o’clocks in my garden, 8:30 pm

When we were at Monticello last summer I was struck by how large Thomas Jefferson’s four o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) were compared to mine. I also liked the fact that it was a plant he knew and grew and could still be grown today as an heirloom. Although I had a few small plants in dry, lean soil in full sun, I was inspired to start new plants from seed this year. I planted them in very rich soil, under morning sun and afternoon shade. Yes, Virginia, despite our heat, humidity, and lack of rain, they are growing very well. They are about 2 feet tall with light green leaves and many yellow or pink blossoms.

The only trick is that the flowers do not open in the day. Although they are named for opening at 4:00 pm, mine never do. The tubular blossoms are sensitive to light and temperature and prefer to open during the cool of the evening, usually between 4 and 8 pm, and stay open all night long. Currently we are in the midst of a heat wave so they do not seem to be opening fully.

flower begins to open in evening

Flowers come in pink, white, red, yellow, magenta, or mixed, liked speckled. They are tender perennials which means they will grow as perennials in the south but in my zone 7 garden, I can grow them as annuals that may not overwinter, dig and save the tubers for next year, or start new seed next year. Four o’clocks were cultivated and selected for various colors by the Aztecs prior to the Spanish Conquest. They were then introduced to Spain and England and were in cultivation in Europe for about 200 years before Linnaeus first described the species in 1753. Thomas Jefferson received his from France. In July 1767, exactly 250 years ago to the month, he noted in his journal “Mirabilis just opened, very clever.”

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day occurs on the 15th of the month. Garden bloggers from around the world post their articles about blossoms in their garden.

pink four o’clocks at Monticello, early afternoon