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Saturday, September 17, 2016
Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

It hasn’t been a very good season for my outdoor mini-garden. Once again, the landlord had no objections to my cultivating a few square yards of land along side of the backyard parking lot; and so back in March, I once again invested in a few bags of fertilizer and black soil, got out the shovel and hoe, and prepared a seed bed. I also prepared 7 or 8 clay pots for growing herbs (basil, sage, oregano, parsley and mint). By late April, I had a variety of flower seeds planted, including my usual morning glories and moonflowers and recently adopted nasturtiums. I’ve had mixed success getting sunflowers started, but I was ready to give it another go, having bought 3 or 4 different varieties of seed. And I wanted to try something new and supposedly easy to grow, so I added 4 O’Clocks to the routine this year.

Well, the morning glories eventually took hold, although it took several tries (I would start the seeds indoors and then transplant the seedlings into the backyard). The moonflowers seemed to take pretty well, and the nasturtiums got going right away. But as to sunflowers, I just couldn’t make them work. I tried planting new seeds every few weeks from April thru early June, but it was always the same; the seedlings would poke thru and seem to thrive, then after a few weeks would wither and die. It just wasn’t a good year for sunflowers (or for any of the others either; the morning glories only got budding late in August, whereas in previous years you might see a first blossom by the 3rd week of July).

The same pattern that doomed the sunflowers seemed to also hold for the 4 O’Clocks. At first they would break thru and grow smartly, looked like a sure bet. But after a month or so, when they were a few inches tall, the “Clocks” started to wane and eventually all died off. All except for one. Somehow one seedling had found the right mix of water and soil and eventually made it into flower, right around Labor Day. Well, better late than never!

There was one strange thing, though. This 4 O’Clock plant produced a wreath of lovely red flowers; but its timing was way off! Four O’Clocks are supposed to be late afternoon bloomers; but with my one plant, the late summer sun would set and the floral pipets would remain closed and shriveled. However, by 9 PM, they would blossom forth into a wonderful nocturnal bouquet. Just after dawn they would shrivel up once again. It seems almost as if the plant were aware that just a few feet away were several moonflower vines, putting on a fairly similar show, with wonderful softball-sized white flowers.

Oh well, it wasn’t a great season; the rains and sun and warmth arrived, but not in the right amounts at the right times. Nature was just a bit off this past summer, after a wacky winter (it was generally warmer than usual due to the strong El Nino pattern in the Pacific, but there was a 20-inch blizzard in late January, followed by a short but severe sub-zero cold snap in mid-February). But aside from the sunflowers, just about everything else eventually had its day in the sun. Or in the case of the moonflowers and tardy 4-o-clocks, its night beneath the stars.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:29 pm      

  1. Jim, What a beautiful plant! Actually, it’s the ONLY beautiful plant I’ve see all this year. Something really went right with these red Four O’clocks.

    Here not much has bloomed this year; a real barren year as far as the plants are concerned. My peonies bloomed beautifully­­ for about 2 days and then got flattened and destroyed by a bad rain storm. Not even my Cone Flowers came up, and they almost always bloom no matter what. Seems something ate them, maybe deer; but I think the deer must have been hard up as they usually prefer tulips, which were not to be seen this year at all. (Bad sentence. Sorry.)

    And you are right: Some years ago I had Four O’clocks all over the place, even the next year when I planted the seeds from the first year. This year not one thing planted came up. I don’t think the plants knew whether to go back to sleep and keep hibernating or whether to bloom with the crazy weather. If they started to bloom on a nice, warm day, they got frozen over night when it turned cold.

    So, it’s a beautiful thing to see, your Four O’clocks blooming so abundantly. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — September 18, 2016 @ 6:02 pm

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