Some of the plants you hardly ever see anymore are the favorites I grew up with. The new hybrids and tropical plants have taken over. But if you have a grandmother who is gardener, ask her about her favorites and why. One I try to have every other year or so is the FOUR O’CLOCK which stays closely shut until afternoon. I like ten to fifteen plants fairly close together and go out to smell them.  For me it is later than 4:00 pm but then they come from Central and South America which might change their timing.  MIRABILIS JALOPA is an annual and comes in many colors. They are also called MARVEL OF PERU and can be invasive farther South as they form tubers to come again in spring. But here in Nebraska this doesn’t happen so seeds go out every spring after frost date. My favorites are the ones with striped petals and some flowers of more than one color. Since they open late they have perfume to attract the pollinators.

          Another perfumer is the honeysuckle but be careful because some of them are a little “vigorous” and will cover things you might not like covered. A chain link fence is one place to cover. “Lonicera species” are many and people are working to produce more.  GOLD FLAME is popular in Lincoln. HALLS is noted for its aggressiveness.  DROPMORE SCARLET is another favorite. All of them can be started from tip cuttings. Be sure and start several to assure success. Some Honeysuckles are shrubs, others are vines, so check the label to be sure which you are getting. Hummingbirds love them but watch out as the berries can make you ill if you eat them.

          I very seldom see TUBEROSES here in Lincoln but I like to have a few every summer, mostly for their perfume. Bulbs do best planted in clusters and need to be started early if possible. Otherwise they my just be blooming when our first frost comes.  I bring mine out of storage early and put them in damp sphagnum peat moss in a big pan in the basement to give them an early start. There is a double one but I think the singles do best. Just do not separate the clumps until they are quite large as the singles do not do as well. One bloom in a room can dominate the air!!

          SWEET PEAS are not as popular as they should be.  They require something to climb on, tend to flop, and do not like hot weather. “LATHYRUS ODORATUS” were grown in England during the 1800’s and were not the big blossoms we know now. They were small blooms of only purple and blue.  After they became popular, breeders started changing them to produce larger peas, and more colors, but they lost most of the perfume. They are still working to improve their ability to bloom after it gets very warm.  We get best results by planting them every early, even helping them climb a string or trellis, in full sun, in a protected spot from the wind. It is easiest to give them a string, enjoy them as long as you can, and then cut the string at the top and bottom to drop the plant and all into the compost pile. Since they wrap all around their support, untangling just the vine is a little “messy”. One of the prettiest displays I have seen was a clothesline wire strung with strings very close together and backed by evergreens which protected them from the wind and made the colors stand out. George’s wife is growing them this year up into a mock orange shrub which protects them and helps make the shrub look better.

          CASTER BEANS      may not be very popular because it is poisonous. If you don’t have kids around, it is a tall 6 to 8 foot coarse plant with huge leaves of either green or red. The seed pods are bright red in long clusters. They can be used as a tall background to your other plants.  The ground seeds are advertised as a mole chaser and the oil is in several preparations as a mole deterrent (Recinus communis).

          Once you have LARKSPUR (Consolida ambigua) you will always have it unless of course you harbor rabbits. The last two years I have had to protect mine with Liquid Fence as the ones in the backyard were completely eaten to the ground.  But I found enough growing in the parkway to make a deep blue bed with a few pink or white ones.  I try to rotate my rabbit chasers and will use blood meal which becomes a fertilizer with rain, Liquid Fence, and “deters-all” so the rabbits won’t get used to any one of them. LARKSPUR does not transplant easily and prefers being planted in the f all.  They will come up and remain happily under snow banks all winter about 2 inches high.

          One of our natives that is well able to take care of itself but used rarely is the WILD PETUNIA (Ruellia species).  I got my start at a garden club sale and now it appears in various places in the yard. It only reaches about 12 inches, has a soft furry leaf, and never seems to need water. Mine does best along an edge where it is not pushed out by a taller plant. Ruellia blooms in June with lavender blue flowers, will root very easily from cuttings, and forms a small, perennial clump. Since I carry all my frozen plants to the chipper at the compost pile, I am probably the one who has dropped a seed along the way so in the spring I watch carefully when I am weeding to see where it will be for that year. Copyright July 8, 2006