Night Scented Flocks

 Zaluzianskya capensis ‘Midnight Candy’ (Zal-oo-zee-AN-skee-uh) Night Phlox


I read about this remarkable little annual from South Africa earlier this year and bought some seeds to try. It was said to be one of the most intensely fragrant flowers which could fill a room or patio with its strong scent in the evening. During the day it sits quietly with its flower buds tightly closed in little purple capsules waiting for nightfall. When the sun goes down the flowers begin to open and the scent begins. The fragrance intensifies as the evening wears on and when it is totally dark the pure white flowers fully open to reveal their true purpose, to attract moths and other night flying insects to pollinate it in the course of drinking its rich nectar.014

The scent is rather sickly sweet, it reminds me of pink bubble gum. I read another description which was ‘candied talcum powder’ so you get the idea! For a small plant it packs a powerful punch and just a small pot is enough. If you like sweet scent give it a try next year. It’s easy to grow and maintain, likes lots of water and a sunny spot. Like many flowers that open and close with the sun, it seems to last for weeks and doesn’t need constant dead-heading. Eventually it produces lots of seed to keep for the following year.


First Sweet Peas!

003I don’t know why, but the first Sweet Peas of the year just make me smile!007

The stems are always longest and strongest on the early ones and these are no exception. Sown on 31 October last year, overwintered in a cold frame and planted out at the end of April, these will be followed by a further 20 plants sown on New Years Day which are now only 2 weeks behind! The March sown seeds were given away and swapped. I hope they get the same pleasure from them that we do.

Pollen-Free Lilies

One of my mini trials this year has been to see if so called ‘pollen-free’ lilies are as worthy as the fully loaded versions. The main purpose was to find a group of lilies that I could grow as cut flowers but which did not have the usual annoying habit of dropping their pollen and staining hands, clothes, tablecloths and runners, and even furniture. Strong stuff that pollen! Incidentally, the last thing you do if you want to remove pollen from material of any kind is to use a damp cloth. This just makes things worse. The best thing to do is to use sticky tape and lift the pollen off without rubbing.

I bought 3 pink varieties for the trial; ‘Elodie’, ‘Miss Lucy’ and ‘Brokenheart’.

First mistake was ‘Elodie’. Absolutely no scent! What a waste of time and money. It looked like a lily which should have had pollen but had it washed off. The style and stamens were in place but there were no anthers or stigma and no pollen. Weird!

‘Elodie’ a pretty lilly and no pollen, but no scent either!

Next to open, two weeks later than ‘Elodie’ and thirteen weeks after planting, was ‘Miss Lucy’, a beautiful white and shell pink lily with an intense fragrance. Unlike ‘Elodie’, the reproductive parts are hidden by sepals which do do not open but form a central ‘cone’. Two stems in a vase filled the room with scent.

‘Miss Lucy’ pollen-free and highly fragrant.

A week later than ‘Miss Lucy and fourteen weeks after planting, ‘Brokenheart’ finally opened and is pleasant but not as striking as ‘Miss Lucy’ in my personal opinion.‘Brokenheart’ was certainly the most branched and with the most flowers, approx 6 on each stem, but the buds opened pointing downwards and gradually lifted their heads to reveal their beauty and amazing scent.

Overall, I would rate this trial a success because it has proved you don’t need the pollen to get beautiful scented lilies. However, the colour palette is currently limited and would therefore not satisfy every occasion. There is also one slightly worrying aspect which I need to investigate further. Although there is no pollen, the flowers appear to exude a colourless sticky residue which falls on to the leaves and then on to the surface holding the vase. In our case, this was an expensive oak side table! Fortunately, it does not seem to stain and is easily wiped off but annoying and unsightly nevertheless.

Plant of the Day

My plant of the day is Gladiolus callianthus commonly known as the Peacock Orchid. It is a simple, beautiful, pure white flower with a maroon centre and strappy leaves. Unlike the usual gladioli where a straight stem is a must, these charming cousins from the high mountains of central Africa droop modestly.

Sometimes also called Acidanthera murielae or Abyssinian sword lily, they have a light scent, especially in the evenings, which may indicate it is a moth attractor.

The corms are not fully hardy but it will be easy to lift them in November and store them in the shed in a paper bag with some shredded paper until spring. I will try them as cut flowers when a few more come out to see how long they last. They are supposed to be good and, being white, would work on their own or with other stronger colours.

Update 31 August 2012

The blooms work well as cut flowers, particularly against a dark background as this photo shows

Free but costly!!

Lily ‘Elodie’ which is pollen free is also scent free! The idea was to have lilies for the house which didn’t drop pollen, but without scent it is pretty useless for that purpose. I understand the other two I am growing, ‘Miss Lucy’ and ‘Brokenheart’ are highly fragrant. Hope so!

Pollen free Lily ‘Elodie’ is also scent free! Pretty but disappointing.