Friday, July 24, 2015


I did not know, in May, when I ordered statuesque annuals whose growth peaks in late summer, that we would have to move in August. Lock, stock, and smoking terra cotta.

After last winter killed off all our boxwoods and a blueberry I decided to fill their big pots with annuals, this year. Less expensive. But I wanted height, a presence. Last year's purchased (Seedman) Nicotiana mutabilis seed's enjoyed a 100% germination failure rate, and this year I found these, from Annie's Annuals. A garden design client had asked about ordering plants online and I - a devotee of local garden shops and growers - was disparaging about quality, before I thought I should investigate further. So I guinea pigged myself.

These four inch pots arrived in early May, their soil still damp with Bay Area water, and held in place with ingenious covers and elastic bands and cardboard separators. 

A few of the large, fragile leaves were broken, but I repotted the plants right away, watered them well, and within a couple of weeks they had doubled in size. Their lowest leaves are now over two feet in length, and the most advanced plant is taller than I am. Internet plants get the green light. At least, these do.

The buds open white.

A pale blush begins in the flower.

...and after another day there is rose. 

I had fallen in love with this nicotiana after seeing a clump of them in my mother's Cape Town garden, backlit in the dawn light of a jetlagged morning and subsequently at the BBG.

The subsidiary flower stems grow longer, and cantilever over the broad leaves below.

At night they are lightly scented.

Apart from their vertical interest and fat tropical stricture on the Harlem terrace they are also meant to lure hummingbirds. Like the jewelweed, the agastache, the blablabla.

The smaller, green Nicotiana langsdorfii seeded freely from last year's planting, but - curiously - not a single N. sylvestris came up. Many seeds must have been shed last summer, despite my deadheading.

For now, the tall tobacco plants behave as they did in my spring dreams.

Tall, delicate. Magnets for large bees.

Subject to change.


  1. Wow! Not normally much of a fan of annuals, but for that one, I could get very enthusiastic.

  2. Are they not just wonderful? I had only three self-seeded Nicotiana sylvestris come up, and these too in the most incovenient spots, despite having five large plants go to seed last summer. Next year I am going to have to raise some from seed for planting out again.


Comments on posts older than 48 hours are moderated (for spam control) . Yours will be seen! Unless you are a troll. Serial trollers are banned.