Emily from her Garden Living blog had a post and pictures on four o’clocks that remind her of “grandma”. Hers are a cheerful hot pink color, but four o’clocks come in a mardi gras variety of colors that really brighten up the garden. I grew some a couple years ago and hoped to winter them over, they are hardy- better be as they are native the Andes (hence the name: Marvel of Peru). They are warm-season annuals, but produce lasting underground tuber-like roots. Kind of like skinny dahlia roots, they also can self-sow. But mine did not survive, and I really don’t know the reason. A good gardener tries again for something that is wanted in the garden, so Emily’s post inspired me to try again.
My own memory is of a neighborhood lady who lived on a corner shoehorned tight against the street. Her house was raised up and bounded by a retaining wall that held the four o’ clock hedge right at eye level of pre-teen passersby (me!). The pink, yellow, and fuschia flowers were fascinating to observe as they opened in the late afternoon each day, and their bright colors were striped and speckled red and yellow, mostly. She had them planted on the western sunny side, facing a busy neighborhood street, and as I recall now, she liked to plant other equally interesting (if poisonous) plants. I think she had the biggest Castor plants I had ever seen by her back porch, but it was her stand of four o’ clocks that I remember with nostalgia.
Mirabilis jalapa as they officially known, are easy to grow which makes them one of those fun flowers for children. In fact, if I had a little side garden for my grandchildren I would give them four o’clock seeds, zinnias, and nasturtiums, all which have those fantastically bright colors and grow so satisfactorily quick. I would be very careful to oversee the planting of them, though, as the seeds are reputed to be poisonous. They are planted like morning glories,soaking the seeds for a day before planting. Come to think of it, morning glories would be a fine addition to the easy, bright and cheerful children’s garden. Summer’s delight as remembered on these cool and waning days of October, notes on what to plant in next years garden.
Four O’Clocks are fragrant, drought resistant, butterfly attracting, and easy, bushy little plants.