Let’s hear it for these gloriously common flowers
“Everyone pooh-poohs morning glories,” gripes my friend Carol.
True. They are the Walmart of flowers — lacking in class and too downmarket to get much respect. And if you plant their seeds in spring, and then start raving about their Day-Glo flowers, you’re likely to be secretly treated with scorn and dismissed as a rube, not a “real” gardener.
Yet such is the fate of any plant that becomes too popular. It happened to red geraniums — garden design divas despise them — and increasingly, I detect the same kind of contempt developing for Phalaenopsis orchids. Although their extraordinary flowers are glorious, graceful and long-lasting (and, only a decade ago, were rare, expensive and highly prized), who wants to own anything that’s now churned out by the millions and sold at every supermarket and corner store?
If we’re honest about it, not many of us. At heart, every keen gardener is a bit of a snob — and a show-off to boot. We want our “babies” to stand out from the crowd and be the subject of ooh-and-aah admiration from less experienced gardeners. And if, in their early stages of development, those fledglings behave like uncooperative, surly teenagers, well, so much the better. Then we can brag about how difficult they were to nurture into adulthood.
Thus, poor old morning glories don’t really cut the mustard. They’re too cheery, too easy, too lacking in challenge, too willing to drop their offspring everywhere and then return the following spring to clamber willy nilly all over the place.
And their lurid, trumpet-shaped flowers that last only a day . . . well, they’re undeniably eye-catching — ditto the green leaves shaped exactly like hearts — but we see so many of them, so why bother?
Yet fans like my friend Carol, who lives in an Avenue Rd. condo, say it’s time to give a shout-out to this most common member of the Ipomoea family.
“I love my morning glories,” she declares firmly. “They cover a trellis on the front of my balcony and shield me from the western sun. They have flowers all summer. And I don’t need to worry about overwintering their pot somewhere, because the seeds just come up by themselves in spring. They’re perfect.”
Another fan in the High Park area agrees. This past summer, her morning glory vines were so ener- getic, they spread all over flower pots, shrubs and even a broom. And they haven’t stopped producing their characteristic purple flowers.
“Next year, I want to train the vines to climb over a dead cherry tree in front of my house,” she says.
For anyone who wants to don the morning glory mantle too (or has failed with them before), a few tips:
They need sun — lots of sun — to flower well. An east-facing location is particularly good. The buds won’t actually open until the sun’s rays strike them. So if that big golden orb in the sky doesn’t swing into your yard till the afternoon, they won’t be “morning” glories.
You have a tangle of greenery, but hardly any flowers? The location is either too shady or the soil too rich. In my experience, they don’t like fertilizer and flower more frequently in poor soil.
Morning glories are annuals. The vines come up in spring, then die off in winter. People sometimes mistakenly think they are perennial plants because seeds will often sprout in the same spot as the previous year.
Vines that grow from those seeds will flower quicker than new seeds you plant.
They come in a variety of colours now, with fancy-dancy names such as Carnivale de Venezia and Blue Picotee. But I’ve found that the most reliable morning glories are still the classic purple kind.
Use them to screen virtually anything — garbage cans, air conditioning units, nasty neighbours — so long as the vines have something to climb up.
Carol makes a good point. Let’s hear it for much-maligned morning glories. soniaday.com
At heart, every keen gardener is a bit of a snob, Sonia Day writes. But it’s a shame to overlook common plants such as morning glories.