Four-o'clocks; was: Re: [pbs] Pinellia

Jim McKenney
Mon, 19 Jul 2004 10:56:43 PDT
At 12:16 PM 7/19/2004 -0400, Jay Yourch wrote:
>Four-o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa) could be considered a geophyte and self sows
>like mad.  It also turns out to be root hardy here, something I did not
>expect, so has some invasive potential in this climate.  If we agree that it
>is a geophyte I would be glad to post photos of this plant to the wiki.

Post away, Jay, it's a geophyte in my book!

When I was a beginning gardener, I knew four-o'clocks as annuals. When I
got a bit older and got around more, I began to notice the huge
four-o'clock "bushes" which often sprouted in inner city alleys and vacant
lots. That's when I learned that, as are so many "annuals", four-o'clocks
are by nature perennials. 

That's also when it occurred to me that the roots could be saved over
winter indoors in places where they would not survive on their own outside.
And there is this, too: if you sow a packet of seed which yields
mixed-color plants, you can mark them for color when they are in bloom,
save them over winter, and plant them out the next year in color groupings
which appeal to you. 

To my eyes, some four-o'clock colors are very hard to combine with other
colors - especially the red ones, which seem to have lots of both orange
and blue in them. 

I just learned something about these plants which I should have picked up
on long ago. The specific epithet jalapa is for the Mexican city Jalapa -
so for those of us who speak English, watch out! - the j has the h sound. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where four-o'clocks are
hardy in protected sites as are its relatives Mirabilis longiflora and M.

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