Morning Glory: A Warning

Meanwhile we surround a huge black Chinese jar with the blue Oxypetalum and the blue plumbago all through the summer, and drop a pot full of morning glory, Heavenly Blue, into the Chinese jar, to pour downwards into a symphony of different blues.

-Vita Sackville-West
A Joy of Gardening; 1958


I missed writing a post last week because I was tirelessly working on my second book.   It’s almost finished but I just need to “paint” a few more layers to make it solid.   Sometimes I think I should start a writing process blog so I can vent my troubles to the world instead of my incredibly patient husband.  I ask him, “Did I run into this kind of trouble on my last book?  Did I want to give up and throw it in the garbage?”  “Yes,” he replies.  “Keep at it, you’ll eventually find what you’re looking for.”  Like some magical oracle he says this and I believe him because he seems to be always right.   So for a week I toiled and mulled over the hole I was almost falling in until I found a little bridge to take me across.  The story is so much better now.  All I needed to do was spend a little more time with the characters (I’m going on a year with this one) and they eventually showed me the way.

Much like the garden and the flowers we have planted.  The more time you spend with them the more you get to know them.  Take for instance the morning glory as it is our subject this week.   How excited I was to buy these seeds, the seeds of the Heavenly Blue which Vita talks about endlessly.   I believe she called it the perfect shade of blue.  I have written a post on morning glory called From Muddy Waters to Finding the Perfect Shade of Blue, but I wrote that post before I spent any time with the flower.  I will say now that I would have planted them elsewhere.

What I didn’t realize was these vines, once they get going, won’t stop.  Surely they will take over your other plants if not put in a place all their own where they can’t reap havoc.   Their little arms reach out grabbing for whatever they can and they pull, twist and coax everything  into their leafy embrace.  They uprooted one of my large zinnias and shielded my beloved rose bushes from the sun. They are wild.  As a result, I am currently treating all my roses for black spot.


So the other day on a surprisingly warm October afternoon, I looked at my garden and I got angry.  Once coveted and prized for their beautiful blue flowers I now gazed at them with loathing.  They had turned out to be completely impolite and gluttonous with the space they were given.  I realized I had made a grave mistake.  Planting the morning glory in my garden was like bringing a wild animal into my house.  Once it grew to four inches it went wild all over the place, too quickly for me to stop it.   I was finished with this little shop of horrors menace so I got a little rough and I pushed all the vines to one side of the fence and I took my shears and freed my rose bushes and zinnias from their grasp.

They are beautiful, yes, and I would highly recommend them if you have the room.  But choose a space that will be entirely theirs,  keep them away from all other plants.  If you do you’ll be happy and you’ll enjoy them thoroughly.  They are very beautiful and deserve full attention away from the garden where the “domestic” plants live.


From Muddy Waters to Finding the Perfect Shade of Blue

“The Morning Glory is a joy every year.  Those enormous sky-blue trumpets that open every morning before breakfast and shut themselves up again between luncheon and tea…You must make sure to get the right kind: it is called Ipomea rubra-coerulea, Heavenly Blue.”
Vita Sackville-West
In Your Garden:
February 12, 1950


Vita loved her Morning Glories.  Besides zinnias they are the only annual she planted.   She advises that you can sow them indoors in March or April.  However, you don’t loose much time sowing them at the end of May in the ground from which they’ll grow.

She advises,
“Sow the seeds in little parties of three or four, and thin them remorselessly out when they are about two inches high, till only one lonely seedling remains.  It will do all the better for being lonely, twelve inches away from its nearest neighbor.   It will branch and bulge side-ways if you give it plenty of room to develop, and by August or September will have developed a spread more desirable in plants that in human beings.” (V.S.W.; In Your Garden, February 12th, 1950)

The seeds are extremely hard and must be either soaked in water for 24-48 hours prior to planting or I’ve heard people ‘file’ the shell down to expose the tiny plant-this technique made me nervous, and it seems it’d be rather tedious.


These seeds above were soaked for 48 hours.  The water became quite cloudy, but you can see the tiny plants poking out.   I was going to plant them right away, but then it starting SNOWING.  Fearing they would become water logged if I left them soaking any longer I took them out to dry.  Then I began to fear that drying them out too much might be detrimental to their growth, so I employed a baggie with a wet paper towel and wrapped the birthing babes neatly- leaving them tightly sealed until they were ready to plant (about two days).  The baggie idea just instinctually came to me.  It’s like the seeds were speaking to me or Vita’s influence is taking its toll.  Whatever it was, it worked wonders…

The seedlings grew twice their size!   I planted them yesterday along three trellises and a fence.  If I’m lucky, the blue trumpets will block out the view of our neighbor completely!

Artists have never been able to agreed on the correct shade of blue.  If only they had turned their heads to a trellis of Ipomea!  A blue that goes well with all others, that will never clash or swear.  A blue that seems to be translucent- that shares a touch of all the others.  It is all found in the Ipomea rubra-coerulea!

…And while they grow I’ll think of Vita; how behind her garden gates, unbeknownst to all other artists and the world, she knew she possessed the perfect shade of heavenly blue.


Photo Credit(Because mine haven’t grown yet to take a picture): Wallace Gardens