14 June 2017

Chocolate Flower

This is the second year for my perennial Chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), planted from seed last year. It survived the winter, but hey, that's not saying much. I had nicotiana survive this past mild winter.

I think I dumped half the seed pack into one container in early spring 2016, and had so-so luck with germination. I transplanted four seedlings into a harsh area, since I read they are native to the southwest (United States) and are not fond of the good soils here in the east. They survived full sun at the intersection of the concrete driveway and wood deck steps.

One plant did produce about 3 blooms last summer; the others were too small. This year, I planted a few more from seed and when large enough, transplanted to the same spot, hoping they would grow into those wonderful pictures in the seed catalogs. Note: transplanting seems to stop their growth. They were doing fine in the yogurt cups, but once hardened off and bedded into the ground, they put on the brakes.

Today, the older plants are blooming - one in particular took off leaving the rest behind. Almost daily, one or two flowers greet me in the morning on the way from porch to car. They last about 2-3 days. The other plants from last year have yet to really wake up.

The flowers are small and lemony yellow, about 1-inch (2.5 cm) diameter, and not abundant. Plants are spindly, untidy, and a short 12-inches (30 cm) high, making neighbors wonder what's up (or down) when I am on my hands and knees to get a hit of their fragrance. And, the fragrance comes though in the morning. In the evening, the flowers have no scent. I would never grow these as an accent or as a visual specimen plant.

And an answer for the final question: yes! They really do smell like chocolate. Not a little like chocolate, but 100% like chocolate. I can't believe enough of these would ever make Willie Wonka happy and "perfume the entire garden", but if you are good at occasionally bending over to get your nose close to the ground, you could enjoy the novelty.

For The Record:
  • Dry, well-drained soil, some organic material added
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of slow-release fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: nasturtium, coneflower, rudbeckia, daylily, hydrangea, marigold, phlox, geranium, yarrow, nicotiana
  • Harvested: garlic