Friday, August 13, 2010

Jasmine-scented nicotiana and shooting stars


Last night I was up late, and on a whim I decided to go outside to watch some of the Perseid meteor shower at midnight.  Our back deck faces due east, so I had a wonderful view of the night sky.  It was cool and clear, with a slight breeze.  I sat in my favorite rocker, and watched the sky.  I could see the Milky Way clearly; it was amazing.  It put me in mind of the worship song, "God of Wonders:"  God of wonders beyond our galaxy, You are holy, holy; the universe declares Your majesty, You are holy, holy.  Lord of Heaven and Earth. . . .   It also reminded me of the Calvin & Hobbes cartoon where Calvin is outside at night, and he yells, "I AM!"  at the sky, then adds as an afterthought, "Said the dust speck."

Next to the deck I have a large clump of tall, jasmine-scented nicotiana.  It's extremely fragrant at night, and as I sat and rocked and watched for shooting stars, the heady sweet scent flowed over me in waves on the breeze.  It was truly divine.  I sat out for almost an hour, and saw quite a few meteors - a handful of really bright ones, and more little ones.  It was so quiet outside, and I could have sat there for hours.

I grew the nicotiana from seed this year, winter-sown in February.  It's remarkably quick to grow from a little seedling to a 4 foot tall candelabra of long, nodding white flowers over lush green leaves.  It tends to flop a bit - I've got mine tied to the deck railing with twine.  It's not an elegant solution, but, OH, the scent is glorious!  I got the seed from one of my favorite catalogs, Select Seeds, and the variety is actually called Nicotiana alata 'Jasmine.'  It grows well in partial to full shade, and average to moderately moist soil.  It should abundantly self-seed, so I don't think I'll have to winter sow it again, but I'll save seed to share.  I think it's my favorite winter-sown annual, and I've sown quite a few over the past 6 years.  (Nicotiana 'Lime Green' is also a wonderful plant, but it's not fragrant.)  I'm still working on that bed against the back wall of the house - it's the last place in the yard to get my attention.  If the weather moderates this weekend, I'll clean it up and finally mulch it.
This is Nicotiana 'Lime Green.'  It's a much shorter plant, about 1 1/2 feet tall.  
The flowers are truly apple green, and it makes a neat rounded mass.