TUBEROSES should not be any problem to anybody.
The bulbs are planted outdoors in the manner of gladioli or cannas or ismenes in the spring. I have planted them out on March 15, with perfectly good results, though that particular spring was so wretched and cold that I think I would wait until mid-April to plant tuberoses in Washington.
They like full sun, or the nearest approximation to full sun that can be afforded in a small city garden.
They have no particular requirements. God knows we get enough water dumped on this capital that they require no attention to watering.
Ideally, if you want the flowers for vases in the house they are grown in a row in the vegetable garden, like onions. In our same climatic zone, only far to the south and west of us, tuberoses are often left outside all year.
Here it is unwise to leave them -- or cannas or gladioli -- outdoors for the winter. They may very well come up the next spring, or they may very well perish, and since the likelihood of disaster from winter cold is great, they should all be dug up and brought in for the winter.
Tuberoses form dense clusters of small narrow longish bulbs clustered around the main bulb. These, when separted, grow into flowering size in a year, but they do not bloom when small.
Now in small town gardens tuberoses usually wind up along the edge of some narrow bed along a walk. The trouble is, in small gardens, the gardener usually has that bed chock full of spring flowers -- pansies, columbines, tulips and the like.
Those flowers are by no means ready to be disturbed at the time the tuberoses should be planted. One solution is to grow the tuberoses in a tub of good rich dirt "in some out of the way sunny spot," until June. Then the spring-flowering bulbs are dug up and the tuberoses lifted from the tub and planted out.
It sounds better than it works.
Indeed, I get tired of being advised to plant things in "sunny, out of the way" spots, since I have no such place, and neither do most city gardeners.
If the spot is sunny, it is not out of the way, but on the contrary is usually packed pretty solidly with all the things (or a few of them, anyway) the gardener lusts for.
There is no getting around it, however, the tuberoses do have to be planted somewhere in the spring, and if their intended site is at that moment solid with something else, clearly the gardener will have to cope, and growing the tuberoses for a few weeks in pots or tubs is the best I can suggest.
Incidentally, the single tuberose, usually called "Mexican single," is as good as any. I was pleased to notice, when my wife bought big bunches of tuberoses in Mexico, they did not smell nearly so strong as ours. Gardeners have a bad habit of supposing things grow better, larger and sweeter in the tropics, They do not.
I shall now speak briefly of a vine or two, hoping you will forgive my repeated yammering about climbing plants, and that you will come round to my way of thinking, that the difference between a magical garden and a dull one depends pretty much on how many vines there are.
Of course that is not really true. I say it just to annoy the vineless. But it is partly true.
There must be people here who grow the coral vine or the Mexican rose (Antigon leptopus), which is related to the climbing polygonums (like the fleece or silver lace vine) and which has something of the same vigor.
It is wreathed with medium-rose flowers for many weeks. It is doubtfully hardy -- it is not hardy at all -- but I would not be surprised to learn of gardens here in which this vine has grown happily for years, given a foot-deep mulch over its crowns for the winter, and allowed to shoot up anew each spring. I mention it only to suggest I think it worth a try.
The cypress vine is quite a different creature. It is grown anew each year from seeds. Its leaves are made up of tiny narrow leaflets, and the whole effect is delicate and fragile, like the leaves of the bald-cypress tree, or, if you like, a fern.
The flowers are little stars of trumpets, of red or white or rose.
Since I do not play tennis, I have very little sympathy for those vast wire fences that stop the flying tennis balls (sometimes). Those fences are among the important eyesores of semi-civilized life.
Still, if you have one, or if your garden adjoins some tennis courts, the lofty wire structures can be planted with cypress vines for an agreeble effect. l
Another annual vine -- one I have somehow missed growing -- is the cup-and-saucer vine, Cobaea scandens, which has pleasant enough foliage and two-inch flowers like upside-down Greek urns.
They are white, or, more usually, greenish-white turning to violet. When the flowers go, the green calyces at their base reamin, giving somewhat the effect of a small-flowered green clematis.
This plant grows nicely on wires. In fact, it is pretty when trained around wooden arches, or over a sunny kitchen door, or along an iron railing. It is more or less hardy, but it is said to be better to start anew from seeds each year.
The highly poisonous wild potato or solanum is quite a pretty vine, with its clusters of full-violet stars each centered with a brilliant yellow spike of stamens. It is a vicious weed, unfortunately, and it is hard to enjoy the splendid red berries that follow the flowers since you know they will then spring up next year all over the place.
But if this weed is treated well and taken serously, given a nice mulch of manure, it can be handsome. For some reason (sheer black-heartedness, I always assume) nurserymen do not provide us with Solanum crispum autumnalis, which has larger clusters of paler flowers. It is showier than our wild weed, but not so handsome in foliage.
Outraged comments reach us here from various gardeners on fire with anger at the very suggestion that Hall's Japanese honeysuckle is a plant of the greatest distinction.
Of course, if you let it romp all over everything else it is a menace. I do not retreat, however, from my view that it can be grown as a major ornament, on a small arbor, say, and it can be surprisingly magnificent if it is well manured in the winter and clipped back to the old growth in March.
Its scented two-inch trumpets of white fading to apricot hardly need my recommendation, they are so beautiful. Surely it is somewhat ungrateful, if not openly pig-headed, to complain when a plant of the highest beauty and usefulness grows too well.
If gardeners stopped thinking of it as a fierce enemy and started treating it with high culture, they might be surprised. It should be given a place where it cannot get onto shrubs or other plants, and it should be clipped back each year, once it is established. If it is not too insulting, let me add you should not go off and leave it for five years and then complain it has got all over everything.