Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern Coasts
November, 2000
Regional Report

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After their fragrance knocks you down, look up to see this view of angel's trumpet.

Night-Fragrant Plants

The success of my efforts to engage my children's interest in gardening is sketchy at best. They each have a few things they like to grow, but I hope what they'll remember most is the 10 p.m. rousts. That's when I haul them out in their pajamas to smell some stunning odor wafting through the night garden.

Night Moods

Plants that provide night fragrance deserve a place in every garden, whether it's a border of dusky four-o-clocks along the sidewalk or a trellis full of sweet moonflowers at the end of the porch. Of course, nature designs these plants for the benefit of the nightshift pollinators not us, but add them to your garden for selfish motives.

To me, flowers that seem to wait for you at the end of the day have special appeal. Plant night bloomers up close and out of direct wind for greatest effect. I like mine planted in pots on the patio, lining the path from garage to back door, or under an arbor with a nightlight.

My Favorite Smelly Plants

My two favorites are unbeatable for a head-turning, "knock you down where you stand" aroma. Try walking past angel's trumpet (Brugmansia x candida) on an autumn night. I dare you not to stop, inhale, and drift away to an exotic land (at least in your mind).

Native to Ecuador and first seen in New Orleans about 1835, the multitrunks of angel's trumpets raise a canopy from 6 to 10 feet off the ground with bunches of colorful trumpets hanging upside down. I think they smell like vintage 1950s soap, floral like your grandmother's guest bathroom, and quite nearly cloying. White, pink, peach, and the awesome golden trumpets in my garden bloom for weeks, then lose their leaves after flowering.

Making More Trumpets

You can cut the dormant canes into 4-inch-long pieces and propagate them easily. I like to root them in a mix of half compost and half potting soil in shallow flats for a few weeks, then move them up to 1-gallon cans in a looser soil mix that has ground bark added. Trumpet flowers don't always bloom the first year, but I've found that if I root cuttings in the fall and keep the potted plants warm over the winter, then transplant them to the garden in March, they'll put on a few blooms that first fall.

Established clumps of trumpets will come back from the roots for many years with little or no care - I haven't fertilized my old ones with anything but compost in two seasons.

Sweeter Than Trumpets

Even sweeter than trumpet flowers is the early summer-blooming nicotiana, or flowering tobacco. Nicotiana alata and N. sylvestris offer the very sweetest of fragrances. The more modern hybrids just don't have the same fragrance. My plants grow 5 to 6 feet tall in the bed with the trumpets and try every year to take over by reseeding and spreading from their crowns. Plus each stem that falls over roots where it hits the ground.

You can plant both of these smelly sweethearts in fall or spring, then join me in the 10 p.m. rousts. We don't want all our memories to be practical, now do we?

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