Because I am such a great generous guy I gave away all my seeds of the Japanese morning glories (and also because I didn't care about growing them this year) but a few came up in a tub and have begun to bloom.
There is something wonderful about seeing these lush vines growing up steel wires in a tub -- I can understand the Japanese passion for growing them in eight-inch pots. The royal purple and the blue with white edge are the only kinds yet in flower, and only a bloom or two on each.
It's hard to remember in early spring, when you're on fire to see the daffodils and tulips and lilies of the valley, that the weeks will come when those things are done with, and you really will want to see your morning glories.
I also gave away the seeds of the huge white angel trumpet, and am now sulking a little about this, as I only have one tub of them and wouldn't have any except the old plants lived through the winter outdoors and are now starting to bloom.
How rarely the gardeners of Washington think of different kinds of morning glories and cardinal vines and moonflowers. How few gardeners grow crinums and bananas and night jasmines and Chinese hibiscus and tropical water lilies.
We do grow nasturtiums and petunias, and these tropical or subtropical plants do so well with us that we think of them as almost wild and native though they come from Mexico and Peru. So does the four o'clock, or the Marvel of Peru, as Thomas Jefferson used to call it. It is named for its habit of opening flowers at 4 in the afternoon, though it doesn't. It does open sometime before nightfall and closes during the hot daytime hours.
These are the kinds of flowers that do so well in Washington summers. So does the oleander, one of the few really poisonous plants. Children must be prevented from eating the flowers, a thing children are quite likely to do. I used to eat a lot of flowers, and also lime out of the barrel, so I know. Fortunately never gnawed on oleanders, all parts of which are poisonous. But they are beautiful and while not quite hardy with us (sometimes they live over the winter outdoors before a vicious season finishes them for good) they are easy to manage in tubs brought indoors about mid-November and kept on the dry side in a cold room.
I know that if I mention the trumpet vine I shall be growled at by readers who say it should never be allowed in the garden as it takes over. For all that, it is one of the showiest of all flowers. There is a solid yellow one that I grow, and it blooms as freely as any and (a thing I used to be worried about before it bloomed) the ruby-throated hummingbirds like it as well as any other kind.
The plain wild kind (Campsis radicans) is not to be despised, for although the individual blooms are not as large as some others, it makes a fine show in the mass. There is a solid crimson form of it in the trade but I like the yellow one better. The Chinese trumpet vine has much larger flowers, though I never hear of anybody growing it. There is a hybrid, 'Mme. Galen,' which is a cross between the American and Chinese kind and it is the handsomest of the ones I have seen. I have twice noticed, however, that it may grow along for three years without blooming, but once it is settled in it blooms lavishly all summer.
Recently I noticed Madame was starting to grow on the window screen of the stair landing, and as I would be gone for a week, I reached out and pulled it off. When I returned eight days later it had grown all the way to the top of the screen; that is, about 2 1/2 feet in a week.
All these trumpet vines may sucker, especially our wild kind, but a blow of the hoe will take care of any unwanted volunteers, and they are by no means the peril some gardeners think, unless, of course, you don't do anything for three or four years. I prune mine back heavily about March, so there is only a skeleton.
You think you have pruned till there is nothing left, but have no fear, they will grow out a number of feet during our splendid summer.
I whacked back a grape vine this spring, one that had been growing along a catenary chain for perhaps 20 feet. Just cut the main trunk down to about four feet, hoping to treat it as a bushy shrub atop a little trunk, as I no longer wanted it on the chain. Of course this vicious pruning inspired it to send out overly lush shoots, but I found that by pulling some off and pinching some back, it has done pretty much what I hoped. Everybody surely wants a grape vine in the garden, if only for its beautiful lush foliage. The one I pruned so drastically has too many bunches of grapes -- I was out of town when I should have thinned out most of them. It is not good for a grape to overbear, but often I do not get 'round to things.
Do you ever wish catalogues would be more careful in describing color? I have a plant of the buddleia or butterfly bush called 'Ile de France,' which I got because it is said to be more fragrant than many others. I do not see it smells any better, and with me it is the color of diluted Welch's grape juice. I have seen it described a number of ways, but if they had told me it was like grape juice with the addition of a third quantity of water, I would have known.
There is a young plant in the garden of the herbaceous clematis (which dies to the ground in the fall like a peony) from China, Clematis davidiana. It is not as showy as the variety called 'Wyevale' but people who have grown it seem to find it showy enough, and some say it is more sweetly scented. Like most clematis, it has not grown much its first year, only about a foot high, and I need not expect any sea of blue flowers yet. But this past week I saw the basset hound sitting in an unusual spot and I raced out -- for some incredible reason, she was sitting on a tiny bit of bare ground, several inches away from the clematis. This was a red-letter day for me, as usually she manages to sit on some plant I am nursing along. Why she missed it, only she knows. It would never occur to her to sit on a daylily or something that wouldn't make any great difference.
Speaking of daylilies, there is a shortage of kinds that bloom in late summer and fall. Once I bought about 20 kinds that were said to be the latest to bloom, and some had words like 'Autumn' in their names, but most of them bloomed in July all the same. I have one that is supposed to be the wild Hemerocallis altissima, which blooms in August on stems up to six feet or so if it's watered properly, and the wild H. multiflora is in full bloom in mid-August and very pretty with its endlessly branched flower stems and flowers about two inches across of cheerful clear saturated orange. But we could certainly use a few late dayliles that start around Labor Day.
One of the prettiest of the allegedly late kinds is 'Susan Treadwell,' a medium yellow with a reddish throat, but with me it starts in June and is over by mid-July.
It is always well to remember that a flower rightly described as autumn flowering in England or the North Pole or Boston may very well bloom in June here.