A Gardener’s Diary: Scent blooms at 4 p.m.

The Four O'Clock Plant is a lovely addition to Jocelyne Sewell's garden

The holidays are over and the kids are back in school. We just had a fantastic long weekend and everything in the garden is going strong. This is now the harvest season for grapes and many other fruits. Our raspberries are ripening well now after a break in early August. This year we will have a very good second crop because of the heat of summer.

A few years back, I got two thornless blackberry plants. The berries are large and sweet. The problem is that the little ants also like them so I have to give them a few and take the rest.

We are harvesting our grapes. The birds and the wasps are very fond of these. The harvest was enough that I didn’t mind sharing with the birds. This is their dessert after the sunflower seeds.

The other night as I bent down to pick something on the ground, I was amazed at the sweet perfume emanating from some plants. As I had a closer look, I found that it came from my four o’clock plants next to the back door. They are also known by the name Mirabilis. Mirabilis is a Latin adjective meaning “amazing, wondrous, remarkable.” My neighbour had them growing in a large pot about three years ago and saved some seeds for me. The seeds are black and look like little grenades.

Last year I grew some and saved my seeds. This year I only started a few plants but I surely will have more next year. The flowers usually open from late afternoon onwards, then producing a strong, sweet-smelling fragrance, hence the first of its common names four o’clock. The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued moths of the Sphingidae family, such as the sphinx moths or hawk moths and other nocturnal pollinators attracted by the fragrance. I had the chance of witnessing them on the flowers a few times. They only come when it starts to be dark. One of them was about the size of a humming bird.

A curious aspect of this plant is that flowers of different colours can be found simultaneously on the same plant. Additionally, an individual flower can be splashed with different colours. Another interesting point is a colour-changing phenomenon. For example, in the yellow variety, as the plant matures, it can display flowers that gradually change to a dark pink colour. Similarly white flowers can change to light violet.

Habitat and cultivation. Mirabilis jalapa hails from South America, but has become naturalized throughout tropical and warm temperate regions. In cooler temperate tropical, it will die back with the first frosts, regrowing in the following spring from the tuberous roots. The plant does best in full sun. It grows to approximately 0.9 m in height. The single-seeded fruits are spherical, wrinkled and black upon maturity, having started out greenish-yellow. The plant will self-seed, often spreading rapidly if left unchecked in a garden. Some gardeners recommend that the seeds should be soaked before planting, but this is not totally necessary. And for a bonus, I never experienced any problems or bugs on this plant. How much more can you ask.

The Okanagan Roses and Garden Club will resume its meeting Sept. 9 at Schubert Centre at 7.30 p.m. All are welcome.

For more information: 250-558-4556.