There are little disappointments, of course, which should be forgotten once you have quietly blown off steam (outdoors) at the wretched beasts.
I anticipate a triumph elsewhere, as I shall chronicle, but first the failure of the damned fried eggs (Limnanthes douglasii) and the anagallis, blue wildflowers. They were sown together in a large tub of earth and came up nicely, with a fringe of Kenilworth ivy (which has grown like a weed, fortunately). The nickel-sized white flowers with yellow centers, just like fried eggs, grew mightily with their handsome carrotlike foliage and began to bloom. So did the bluebabies and the lavender and the mugwort (no gardener can resist sticking in a few extra oddments, even if the original scheme called only for fried eggs and anagallis).
Then the great heats of July came. The fried eggs turned up their toes, if I may so express it, and so did the blue flowers. On June 15 the tub was full of promise. On July 15 it was full of dead plants. So much for that.
I have now turned my attention to the Japanese morning glories, plants I have always meant to try but never got round to it until a friend (a great plantsman) gave me some seed from his garden.
I cannot tell you how flourishing they look, with tiny flower buds in the leaf axils. Surely these will come along and give me regular clouds of varicolored bloom.
The Japanese, I have read, grow them in both six-inch and 10-inch pots, on thin bamboo frames. Mine grow on metal stakes in a plastic garbage can full of earth. The leaves are the size of one's palm and are surprisingly fuzzy. They are supposed to love heat, no matter how intense, and indeed they have not looked back on the most blazing days. I water them every second day or so, keeping an eye on them for signs of wilting.
"The Flowers and Gardens of Japan," by Florence Du Cane (Adams and Charles, London, 1908, and out of print like everything else) says they came from China (like everything else) as a primitive weed, but the Japanese developed them to astonishing variations. Even the wildlings were admired by the "bright poetesses of the Kyoto court" and the Nara poets lost no time applying the brief beauty of the flowers, that last only a few hours, to the human condition.
In the 18th century the morning glories, called asagao, were greatly developed, but strangely enough a spell of cold toward the close of that century ruined the seed crop, and culture was largely dropped until 1839, culminating in a craze by the 1850s.
"Princes, priests and potentates, nobles and gardeners all vied in the culture of morning glories," which brought fancy prices.
The flower again went out of fashion until about 1890 when a morning glory club was formed, with prominent people as members, and by 1910 there was hardly a house without pots of it. The poorest, as well as the richest, grew it -- often on rooftops in that country where land is so precious. Iriya is the center of culture for this flower in a surprising variety of shape and color. Some flowers are like saucers, others small as half an inch in clusters, like butterfly orchids.
The time to view morning glories (not mine) is 4 a.m. One aspect appreciated by the Japanese, especially the poor, is that at that hour you give your guests nothing more than a cup of tea. (Some chrysanthemum-viewing parties are said to have virtually bankrupted the hosts.)
One Japanese authority said the morning glory men love the hot weather since it is so good for their pets. He says the brain does not suffer if the gardener wears a large hat -- "I have seen many cases of asagao cultivation curing brain illness."
Well, I am not counting on that. But I do hope the fool things bloom better than the fried eggs.