09 July 2008

Drunken Nicotiana

About five years ago, the landscape architect friends volunteered some white nicotiana plants they started from seed early in the season. It was a variety called Only The Lonely (Nicotiana sylvestris). Unique and appreciated, this nicotiana attracted the rare (to Virginia) sphinx moth to their garden. The plants grew to about 5 feet tall (1.5 m) and the long drooping white flowers looked sad, or... lonely I guess. And they could never stand up on their own. The following year, the bed sprouted numerous seedlings from the previous year's seed drop, starting an annual tradition.

Now, like a few other annuals, the white nicotiana are anticipated year after year with their fragrant nocturnal flowers that give some delight to the oppressively hot summer nights in Virginia. The plants that result, however, are not true Only The Lonely. These descendants produce flowers with a normal nicotiana shape and size, not the elongated tubular shape of the hybrid. They do, however, inherit most the hybrid's height and eventually topple over, too. Trimming fallen stalks after the seed pods begin forming causes new uprights and new flowers in a week or two.

These respond well to fertilizer and water - too well. Abundant nicotiana growing to 6 feet (1.8 m) seem to hasten the need for support, and overwhelm everything around, so I don't encourage super-sizing. In the past, they were left to fall and ramble along the ground, appearing somewhat natural. This year I tried disciplining them into a plant support ring, but the support wasn't tall enough and today they are up to their old habit. Next year, more discipline.

For The Record:
  • Medium to heavy soil with clay
  • Full sun, some shade
  • No fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, daylily, liatris, calendula, hosta, zinnia, coneflower, nicotiana, phlox
  • First bell peppers form
  • First full size tomatoes


Bobbi said...
I bet the white nicotiana would be wonderful in a moonlight garden!
Anonymous said...
Only The Lonely is one of my favorite garden plants. I can't find it in greenhouses around here so I start it under grow lights. I love the height of the plant and it's a unique plant that nobody around here has. Mine have never re-seeded, but it's interesting that they didn't come true from re-seeding?
Swimray said...
Great for a moonlight garden - both white color and fragrance.