This nighttime beauty proves that not everything beautiful can be found under the sun.
Poetically speaking, if the moon in June makes you swoon, you simply must make room in your garden for the night-blooming moonvine (Ipomoea alba). This plant, a vine, strongly resembles its sun-worshipping cousin, the morning glory. It can easily reach 15 feet or more in length, making it a real night crawler.
Moonvine seeds (which can easily be found at most garden shops) don’t readily germinate, so give a helping hand by soaking them for 48 hours before planting or by scratching a groove in the hard seed cover with a file. Sow the seeds one half inch deep in a sunny garden spot that has rich soil. Moonvines also do quite well in large pots.
Thin the young plants to 3 to 4 feet apart, and, because they are vines, locate them close to something they can climb on. For a little midnight magic, train them on fishing line that ascends to the top of a porch or even into a tree — this will give a floating effect to the vines.
Mature plants produce sweetly-scented, bright white flowers that twist open as the sun sets. In fact, you can “tickle” the ends of the flowers in the evening to encourage them to open up right in front of you. On a moonlit night, the sight of these ghostly blooms combined with their nocturnal perfume is nothing short of enchanting. The fragrance from the flowers rivals any found in daylight gardens and lasts throughout the night. It’s definitely a plant for entryways and especially the deck where chilling out is the only way to end the day.
Since moonvines are so closely related to morning glories, a neat garden design trick to try is to interplant the two, and let them tangle their way up a trellis. Then, when the moonvines get through with their beautiful night shift, the morning glories can greet the new day with their own pretty flowers.
Editor, writer, and lecturer L.A. Jackson lives in Apex. This story first appeared in the June 2009 issue of Our State>.