Friday, August 27, 2010
Good Morning Glories!
The Morning Glory gets it’s name because it blooms in the early morning and the flowers close up and fade by the time the sun is high in the sky. Botanically known as Ipomoea, Morning Glory encompasses many decorative vines and even the sweet potato. When I think of Morning Glories I recall a friend who read the complicated direction on the back of a seed pack. She said “The heck with that!”, threw them down in disgust and frustration, then forgot about them only to have them grow, with no help from her, into a mass of tangled vines with beautiful, multi-colored trumpet-shaped blossoms and pretty heart-shaped leaves. Needless to say she found out about the experts’ keen ability to make matters such as the simple planting of seeds into something far more complicated.
Morning Glory vines are annuals with a propensity for self-sowing and anything with that ability can’t be very tough to grow, now can it? So, should you disregard the instructions on the back of the seed pack? Yes and no. No, you don’t have to sit there with a nail file or pen knife and nick the seed coat of each and everyone of those tiny seeds but yes, you should do something to soften that seed coat. I prefer the much easier technique of just letting the seeds soak in warm water overnight. This isn’t necessary of course. I just showed you that throwing them down in a reckless manner will accomplish the same thing. But if you want the seeds to germinate quickly as I do it’s a good idea.
Because of my relatively short growing season and the fact I adore Morning Glories and want them around for as long a time as possible, I therefore want them growing quickly so the soaking method works great for me. It’s hardly a burden to place the seeds in a recycled yogurt cup with a bit of warm water and allow them to sit for a few hours then plant them about a half inch deep in regular garden soil. The softened seed coat allows them easy access to the moisture in the soil around them, they germinate swiftly and start growing like weeds. They require very little care after that. Casual feeding and regular watering will encourage blooms. They don’t like to be disturbed after planting so sow them where you want them.
If that still seems like too much trouble (you are a lazy one, aren’t you?) Then simply plant the Morning Glory seeds in the autumn after your temperatures have cooled considerably about the time of your first few hard frosts and leave them to the elements. That seed coat will soften all by itself and in spring they will obligingly sprout and grow on their own perhaps surprising you. By then you may have forgotten all about them. I like surprises like that and often give myself some just for the thrill.
I call the Morning Glory an annual but in truth there are perennials amongst the genus though mostly grow in temperate areas. Elsewhere they are exclusively grown as annuals. Ipomoea Alba, the Moonflower, is such a perennial in the tropics. This one grows so quickly and profusely (up to thirty feet within a season) that it is well worth planting year after year. The moonflower gets it’s common name from its large, white, fragrant flowers which tend to bloom on dull, dark, stormy days, at dusk and into the night, (the exact opposite of other Ipomoeas which bloom at daybreak), perfect for “Moon” gardens and for night-flying insects. It also has large, glossy, heart-shaped leaves up to 8 inches long to recommend it. This plant makes a beautiful display and can quickly cover a trellis, fence or arbor.
Morning Glory Vines come in many colors though the preferred hue is the sky-blue color. “Heavenly Blue” is the most popular and wildly available of the true Morning Glory Blues. A warning to you if you want to retain the blue colored Morning Glory you may have to buy fresh seeds every year instead of relying on them to self-sow. When grown with Morning Glories of other colors the seeds resulting will most likely be of mixed colors. Not that it’s a big problem. They are all beautiful after all.
Other cultivars to try are the red “Scarlet O’Hara” and “Blue Star” which is a bi-color with pale pink stripes forming a star on each pale lavender- blue flower. “Carmen” comes in a burgundy bloom with a white throat. When grown intertwined with the Moonflower the effect is stunning and you get almost continuous blooming as one closes up just as the other opens. Perfect!
There are many others to choose from. Some are bi-colored and even tri-colored coming in single and double flower forms. I suggest you look through a Seymore Select Seeds mail order catalogue for more varieties. You can readily find mixed seed packs in white, pink, light purple, red and blue just about anywhere but make sure you get to the store on the earliest spring day as the Morning Glory seeds tend to be the ones to be sold out sooner than any other. If you intend to collect the seeds make certain you pick them when the papery husks are dry to the touch. The seeds will easily fall away if left in place but collecting them gives you the control so they can grow where you want them instead of where Mother Nature allows them.
The Morning Glories are popular plants used to add height to a garden when planted on a lamp post, fence or even tangled with other vines or shrubs. They can also be useful as ground covers or in hanging baskets. No matter how you put them to use you’ll love them as do all the butterflies, honey bees and Humming Birds which will frequent them.