August 28, 2013

Night Blooming Moon Flowers

The legendary Night Blooming Cereus times it flowering to occur on or near the full moon's of summer,
to take advantage of night-pollinating insects.

Last week's full moon has come and gone, leaving a couple of our night blooming plants lost as they missed the event by a few days.  I'll share with you that I was secretly planning to post last Wednesday, the annual blooming of our Night Blooming Cereus, which usually happens in the greenhouse every August on the night of the Full Sturgeon Moon, an incredible and strangely mysterious event of nature, but this year, for some reason, the timing was off by a full week. I've been wondering why, but the reason might be something more human related, than nature related.

Murraya paniculata, also known as a 'Jessamine', or "Jasmine", yet it is neither,  is intensely fragrant once the sun
sets - this single plant has an orange blossom scent so strong, that it wafts up to the second floor bedrooms in our house.

Perhaps our night blooming plant just didn't realize how rare last weeks full moon was, for according to astronomers, that incredibly beautiful Full Sturgeon Moon last week was also fluke of nature, technically a Blue Moon.  "But wait a minute...", you may be saying,  "...isn't a Blue Moon just a full moon that occurs in the same month in which a full moon already occurred?"  Well, yes,  but the experts are telling us differently - last weeks'  Blue Moon was also the third full moon in a four-full moon season, and that was, and is, the true definition of a Blue Moon.

Epiphyllum oxypetalum, or the Night Blooming Cereus blooming for one night only,
which happens to be tonight, on our deck.

Apparently, plants that follow such events to time their night blooming to take advantage of certain night pollinating insects know this already, and even though I could see buds forming a month ago on my plants, it seemed to take forever for these dinner-plate sized super-fragrant blossoms to open. My best guess on why they are late this year? I believe it's because of our dogs. Dog which seem to be obsessed with patrolling the garden on these hot, humid nights, desperately seeking some rabbits that seem to have taken a liking to the alpine garden. The dogs set off our motion sensitive outdoor lighting, which shine directly onto the deck, exactly where I decided to place the largest pot of Night Blooming Cereus this year. If I have kept the plants in the greenhouse, which is far away from any night light source, I believe that the plant would have bloomed exactly on the night of the full moon.

If you have a Night Blooming Cereus which does not bloom, I suggest locating it outdoors for the summer, far away from any light source, so that the plants internal clock can reset itself to the moons cycle. In our garden, two such plants bloomed, but our one week late plant missed the event most likely to that dang, motion-activated deck light, which the dogs continue to keep activating every twenty minutes or so, as their tiny, terrier brains cycle thoughts of rabbits, raccoons and I know, even skunks.  So what's a few days, in the life of a moon flower, as the proper night blooming pollinators don't even exist in our northern climate, our plants flower sex-free, unless I dabble a bit with a paint brush wearing a hawk moth outfit or a fruit bat suit. Until that happens, we are simply enjoying this special and rare spectacle - gin and tonic in hand. It's an event worth celebrating, even though it marks the first official sign that the end of summer is near.
Another August night-blooming plant is the Night Blooming Jasmine, or Cestrum nocturnum, with a fragrance so intense that even a twig brought indoors with a few blossoms can be tolerated for just a few minutes.

Another plant blooming tonight is the Night Blooming Jasmine, not really a Jasmine at all, but rather a Cestrum nocturnum, a genus with about 250 species which is more closely related to the tomato than jasminum. We gardeners really don't care, for the scent is fantastically sweet, if not overpowering. The event here is only briefly longer than the night-blooming cereus, with flowers lasting for only a few days on these tender, tropical shrubs. Our plant spends winter in the cold greenhouse, but it's the cutting which I plant out each year, into the perennial border. Cestrum species grow so quickly, that a 4 inch cutting can reach 4 feet tall in a few months. I will take cuttings near the end of summer, which will carry our stock through the winter. Sadly, the plant only blooms once a year, yet for one week of super sweetness ( I think it smells like grape Pez candy), it's worth it. The hot, humid nights of August would seem incomplete without the scent of these two plants, if only for a day or two.

August 25, 2013

August with Awesomesauce on top

There are many species of Blue Gentian, but most are challenging to grow. If you crave the cool, color of true blue
on hot, August days, then try this more 'growable' strain - any from the Gentiana septemfida group
may be the most rewarding to try, as many have fringed blossoms, and a longer blooming season.
 I was thinking this week about how little I've been posting, but I really think that it's because a good part of my gardening season happens in the winter, or at least, the more interesting part, since much of what I love to collect happen to be winter growing species - requiring the protection of the greenhouse. These Southern Hemisphere plants either go outdoors for the summer, to appreciate the warm, summer rains of our summers, or, they go semi dormant, staying hot and dry under the protection of the summer glass roof in the greenhouse.

I know - some of you might be thinking "but Matt, it sure doesn't look like you have any shortage of content, looking at your photos!" but from my perspective, aside from a few interesting surprises like the gentians, or some red amaranth, much of my summer garden is boring, as I grow what most normal people grow during the summer - mainly, heirloom tomatoes, corn, zucchini and basil. Aside from some interesting containers, everything else you can see on most any other gardening blog. But don't fret, early September marks the start of my other gardening season - the awakening of the rare bulbs in the greenhouse, those from South African, Chile, and the Mediterranean. Until then, it's home made pickles, canned tomatoes, wild mushroom picking, and perhaps more puppy photos ( Yes, it's official, Lydia is pregnant again - pups due in mid-October).

And now... for more shots of me holding veggies? Kindly click READ MORE, below.

August 19, 2013

The Foodie's Veg Patch

One of the greatest pleasures in gardening are edibles. Fruit, berries, vegetables and herbs - all fresher and tastier than any farm stand or farmers market, since one can not only pick ones one produce precisely when one needs it, but because one can select only the choicest varieties - often those not found commercially or at farmstands, since many of the tastiest varieties are less productive, or simply not familiar to people, so few purchase them. In your home garden, you can grow what you want, and I do exactly that. Each year I choose not the most productive, but, the tastiest varieties. Here are some of my favorites. Click more...