June 3, 1998
Old-Time Gardening Tip
Grow a Hemlock Palace
You can make your own domed temple! Pull and tie 6 trees together at the center to make them grow as one. Cut back the branches that grow from the upper sides of the curved stems to prevent them from becoming leaders and trim as needed. It will take 12 to 15 years to perfect a pavilion like this one.
Suppose six trees to be planted at the corners of a hexagon ten or twelve feet in diameter. Let them feather naturally to the ground on the outside of the group, and trim to within one or two feet of the trunks on the inside. When twelve feet high, pass a rope around the circle, on a level, two or three feet below their tops, so as to draw them towards the center of the circle as far as the main stems may be safely bent, which will probably be about three feet inside of the perpendicular. If the circle is twelve feet in diameter, this will leave six feet unenclosed at the top. The rope is to be left around them until the trees have grown five to six feet higher, when another binding will bring their tops together, and if they are long enough, they may be twisted together.
Frank Jessup Scott, The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds, 1870
There's a little more work involved in making a hemlock palace than mentioned here. Once the trees are tied in place, you'll need to prune the sides and top each year to form and keep the shape you want.
Today's Gardening Tip
Flowering or fragrant only after sunset, night bloomers seduce moths, bats, and other nocturnal pollinators with their extravagant, richly-scented flowers.
Most nocturnal plants are tropical natives and suited to warm areas. If you live in a cold climate, select hardy perennials. You can also grow tender specimens as annuals or overwinter them indoors.
Not all are exotic. Species of many common plants, such as daylilies, iris, cactus, gladiolus, and magnolia, either bloom or release their scent at night.
Light it up. Don't rely on the moon and stars to illuminate night bloomers. Show them off with mall accent lights that cast a soft, diffused glow.
Indoor blooms. Cut a night bloomer with a ready-to-open bud just before sundown and bring it into the house. Place it in water and wait; it will open after sunset and release its perfume all night long.
Plant fragrant night bloomers by a bedroom window or an outdoor living space, such as a deck, porch, or patio, so you can enjoy the plant's flowers and scent.
Enjoy it while it lasts. The night-blooming cereus (Hylocereus undatus) has luminous 1-foot-long flowers that last but a single night. The blossoms open so fast, usually around 8:00 p.m., that you can actually see the movement; by the next morning, they will have closed and shriveled.
The dazzling daturas. Often called angel's trumpets, daturas are tender tropicals that boast long, funnel-form flowers in various colors. Try the sacred datura (Datura inoxia, which opens in late afternoon, or the downy thorn apple (D. metel).
A "ballroom beauty." The evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) looks bedraggled by day, like a partygoer who stayed up all night dancing. But, after the sun goes down, numerous little buds pop open with glistening gold cups.
An old favorite. Choose the old flowering tobacco species (Nicotiana alata) instead of the new hybrid cultivars, which are less fragrant and stay open during the day. Also plant woodland tobacco (N. sylvestris) and nocturnal tobacco (N. noctiflora) for scented star-shaped night blooms.
For evening gardens, plant evening stock (Matthiola longipetala). A sweet, jasminelike scent wafts from its papery purple blooms. Or try the four-o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa) which opens punctually in late afternoon, as its name suggests. The tubular flowers in red, white, or yellow smell like a blend of sugar and lemon.
Ideal for arbors is the moonflower, a morning-glory cousin whose 10-foot-long stems will twine around a trellis. Its pure white flowers open at twilight to emit a clovelike perfume. The seed has a hard coat and is slow to germinate. Soak it in warm water overnight and nick it with a knife or file before planting in well-drained soil and a sunny spot.
Night-Blooming water lilies. A number of tropical water lilies (Nymphaea) flower only at night. The blooms remain open until about 9:00 a.m. the next day and generally last three days. 'Missouri' is one of the most popular cultivars, with white blooms up to 14 inches. 'Red Flare' has deep red flowers to contrast with its mahogany foliage. "Mrs. George C. Hitchcock' blooms with pink petals surrounding orange stamens. A novel relative is the gian water lily (Victoria spp.), whose leaves can reach 6 feet across; the blooms turn from white to pink and measure a mere 12 inches.
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