The pandemic has led to widespread adoption of Voltaire’s advice to cultivate our gardens, figuratively or literally. Literally, I’m cultivating morning glories.
I came to morning glories many years ago. For the last 30 years I’ve lived in houses with wooden fences. I’ve wanted to have a plant that adds life and colour to the fences. Perennials, like Boston Ivy or Virginia Creeper, soon take over the fence. Morning glory is an annual that does not damage the fence and that has elegant flowers the vines lack. The flowers furl like an umbrella, unfurl into the shape of the bell of a trumpet, and last but one day. A bouquet of morning glories is an impossibility, so the flowers must be enjoyed on the vine. Mine are light blue and darker blue flecked with purple, colours I love.
Beyond that, I’ve come to enjoy the plant’s full life cycle. Morning glory seeds are about the size of tomato seeds, but with an irregular hard black shell. I soak them overnight then plant large numbers of seeds next to the fence in early June. They germinate soon and I thin out the plants. I also place bamboo stakes against the fence and run string on the fence to help them climb. I water the soil occasionally. By mid-summer the morning glories will be climbing the fence and putting out flowers every morning. Their growth slows as September nights get longer and colder. A hard frost in October shrivels the leaves and kills the plant.
After the flowers bloom, they turn into downward-hanging seed pods. When the frost kills the plants, I pick the seed pods and take them into the house to dry. This provides the seeds for next year’s crop. If I didn’t pick the pods, they would dry out on the fence, fall to the ground, and the plant would seed itself.
Morning glories represent both a beautiful plant to enjoy every day when they are in bloom and a way of engaging with Nature’s cycle. This year’s plants have been prolific and attractive. In these dark times, they have been a comforting floral presence.