Thursday, 30 June 2011

Heavenly scent

These rather unpreposessing, scruffy little plants are among our absolute favourites this time of year.  The flowers, which are nothing much to look at to start with, close during the day, only opening as dusk approaches. 

And there's the clue to why we like them.  Flowers that open only at night tend to be pollinated by moths, and to attract the moths, they produce wondrous scents, though sometimes only when it's warm enough.

These night-scented stocks have been more successful than often in the past, and we're not really sure why.  They're a bit sensitive to drought, so I suppose we must have been careless on those occasions we've failed to grow decent ones.

Anyhow, on Monday evening, Jenny and I were sitting out on the patio enjoying a glass or three, and the temperature was obviously pleasing to the plants, because the scent was just overwhelming!

It's not a sweet scent, like a rose, but much more musky and spicy, and it tends to hit you in wafts, as the air currents swirl it around.  Just glorious!

So here's what I did.  In March or April I got some 3 inch pots and filled them with JI No1 Seed and Cutting compost.  Scattered seeds thinly across the surface and covered with a couple of millimetres of compost.  Watered gently and stuck them in the greenhouse (unheated) with a sheet of glass over to maintain humidity.  As soon as the seedlings emerged, I removed the glass.

Once the seedlings were about 5cm tall, I lifted the whole lot out of each pot and teased it into 3 or 4 chunks before planting again in 6 inch pots, this time using JI No 3.  By now there was little chance of severe frost, so I moved them outside, but in any case, the plants are not that vulnerable to frost.

Then, when those pots started looking crowded, I just potted up into 8 inch pots, without splitting.  In fact, these are now tending to wilt before I get around to watering them, so I'll pot them up one more time, and will add some water-retaining granules, which might help.

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