The Japanese morning glories, or imperial morning glories as they are often called, are grown in eight-inch pots by the flower-loving islanders who have a tremendous knack for the miniature and, obviously, endless patience and a love of daily detail.
For endless years I have meant to try them, and this year a gardening friend gave me some seeds he saved from his own plants. I shall try them in a half barrel, giving them wire supports to 40 inches, though some of them reach 10 feet, according to the books. My friend says the flowers are six inches across, in a variety of colors from white through blue and red, sometimes with white edges or stripes.
There is no point starting too soon with morning glories, moonflowers or their cousins, since most are tropical or subtropical and will not grow well until the weather is settled, after May 15. Sometimes I have started moonflowers in pots in April, planting them out in late May, and the only advantage of pots is protection of the small seedlings from storms and dogs (who do not hesitate to bed down on young seedlings outdoors).
The main trouble with the entire tribe is that they sulk unless they are given plenty of sun -- say seven hours a day at least -- though I once grew the gorgeous blue dawnflower (Pharbitis learii) in half shade. By and large the gardener can forget morning glories unless he has plenty of sun.
The imperial morning glories are sometimes listed as Ipomoea nil, sometimes as Pharbitis hederacea, and they are said to be a cross between the latter and Pharbitis tricolor. They have been developed through selection by the Japanese, and color pictures show them to be stunning.
One advantage to growing them in pots, no doubt, is that they can be brought indoors for close observation when in flower, and in the dim indoor light they should last later into the day than is the case outdoors. Like morning glories in general, they open early and close or fade or discolor by, say, 10 in the morning. They are not much good for gardeners who enjoy their flowers in late afternoon or evening.
Many readers have asked for the address of two firms, as follows:
Thompson and Morgan, P.O. Box 1308, Jackson, N.J. 08527; and Wayside Gardens, Hodges, S.C. 29695. The first offers a free catalogue, the second charges $1, refundable on the first order.
The past week we have had splendid weather for grubbing out violets. There is a tribe of native violets including the white one with bluish lines radiating from the throat, commonly called the Confederate violet. They are extremely pretty in bloom, though scentless, and are ideal in waste places. But they form knotty rhizomes that get as large as a tangerine, and their tiny roots hold on for dear life.
If they just stayed where you put them, everybody would love them, but they seed prodigiously and can crowd out even vigorous plants. They especially like to get a toehold at the edge of a daylily clump, sprouting innocently right against a fan of daylily leaves. They go unnoticed for a year, then they start gathering strength, even in the dense shade of the arching daylily foliage. Within a couple of years they can actually threaten a young daylily clump, and prevent an old clump from spreading and increasing normally. These violets are even worse when they snuggle in among iris rhizomes. Unless weeded out when small, it is hard to get them out without damaging the iris.
Of all times of the year, this is the very best for getting rid of the violets. The leaves have scarcely sprouted; it is easy to get a good grip on the gnarled violet rhizomes, and the violet roots have not yet anchored the plant too firmly. You dig lightly with a trowel around the clump, you give a steady moderate tug, and up comes the violet. If you do nothing it will soon form a dense mass of leaves spreading more than a foot. What is easy now will become a real chore in a month or two.
As you may guess, I have been getting the violets out of my daylilies, and while I'm at it, I give each clump a scant handful of 5-10-5 fertilizer. I think it a mistake to feed them much, but every other year I give them a shot in the spring, leaving them alone thereafter. Starting the end of May I try to give them extra water, which they much appreciate, and I keep this up (if I don't get otherwise occupied) through June. This is also an ideal time to give tall bearded irises a similar feeding. If I have a new iris, with only one fan of leaves and perhaps two small offsets beginning to sprout at the side, I use only a rounded teaspoonful of the fertilizer, lightly scratched in and watered. I do not usually water, counting on rain within a day or two, but ideally one should water after the scratching in, then give a light cultivation after two or three days.