MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
Several people have asked me about moonflowers. One person said, “I have seen sunflowers but what are moonflowers?” Extra information can be found at:
No, it is not one of my websites. The moonflower pages are beautifully done and well worth reading. Seed sources and cultivation ideas are provided.
All night blooming flowers have two things in common – perfume and lack of color. Moonlight strikes white flowers and makes them stand out in the garden for night pollinating creatures such as moths. The same moonlight does nothing for red roses, which have done their work for the day and would rather sleep all night.
I forgot that moonflowers were related to morning glories. I always soak morning glories before planting them. Moonflower seeds should also be soaked first or nicked, to encourage germination. If you have ever tried nicking seeds one by one you will soon decide to soak them instead. Nicking means barking your fingers on the sidewalk or taking off bits of flesh with a knife.
Moonflowers can be quite vigorous in growth, once they start. I did not get them going before, but I tried planting them for the fall garden. Although I planted quite a few, the ones near the sprinkler germinated, even though I watered almost every day during the dry spell. So I conclude that moonflowers love lots of water. I had a similar experience with morning glories. I watered them often at first, every day, and achieved energetic growth once they were established.
The website does not do justice to the moonflower bloom. I took my wife Chris outside just to see my first one. It was a glowing disk of whiteness, about 5 inches across. Later, our dog, Agent Orange, chewed it off. She enjoys herbal salads. Her gentleness, affection, and protection from my wife have kept Agent Orange alive so far. The vine looks very healthy and should produce plenty of blooms. I spotted one in New Ulm. In fact, some people asked me to identify the exotic plant in an alley. They were impressed by the size of the vine and flowers.
Moonflowers pop open at night and close for the day, while morning glories open wide in the early hours and close up later on. How God arranges all this is beyond me. I think we should think about Creation often. If we think we have something figured out, there is always another complication in God’s plan. For instance, the night blooming cereus (a cactus) also produces aromatic white flowers for evening insects. The cereus is one of those rare cacti that prefers the shade, while the moonflower enjoys plenty of sun. The site of my moonflower vine is the place where monarda failed me. Monarda is supposed to grow rampantly as a member of the mint family and create pestiferous clouds of hummingbirds. But in that spot monarda faded and died. Later I learned that it is one mint that enjoys some shade, and I was growing it on the griddle known as my backyard. It is said that visits by Satan to Phoenix in the summer are cut short so he can go home and get some relief from the heat.
Now we are in the flood season. Two different sets of double storms have moved across Phoenix in a week, with sprinkles added almost daily. I was used to seeing one low pressure zone following another in Minnesota, but I did not expect to see it twice here.
Pumpkins and warty gourds were already established and thriving when the rains hit. They love lots of water. Before the gourds were already fruiting. The Atlantic Giant pumpkins (up to 800 pounds) simply sat there demanding water for a long time. Now the pumpkins are vining across the garden. Vines are worth a whole book. As I wrote earlier, there are many ways for a plant to vine. The moonflower is a strong climber, wrapping itself around the swimming pool fence and any plant offering support. Pumpkins can climb up into a bush, but they tend to sprawl along the ground, putting down little rootlets along the way.
The cat’s claw vine uses little claws to lift itself on masonry walls, wood, and screens. Disturb the vine a little and it falls on the ground in a heap. I really want it to grow on our griddle wall, the west side of the house. Hence, it refuses to thrive there. Cat’s claw is famous for being eternal once established but does not get going unless it is pampered. My main plants thrived in the sun and sprinkler action this summer, so I had a wall of yellow flowers followed by bean-like pods. The pods are ripe and opening up now, so I shook them onto the area I want cooled by vines. Each pod is a work of art. The seeds have a papery cover which encourage scattering by wind. Harris Seeds will charge you extra for adding a chemical pellet to each seed, to make it easier to plant. (I ask myself, why pay for pelleting when I can buy another pound of carrot seeds, to make up for waste?) The cat’s claw seeds rest on top of each other, artistically placed in the pod, the papery wings overlapping. Once again we see what an artist the Creator is. But my neighbor says, “Cat’s claw. I hate them. I tried to get rid of them for 15 years!”
Another quality of vines can be quite useful, if the plant is the right type. Rose canes will root and grow in a glass of water or even when left on the ground and covered with snow for the winter. Most bush cuttings will root and grow. Periwinkle (vinca minor) will root if heavy objects press the wiry plant to the soil. They will root anyway, but it is fun to give them a little help. Periwinkle loves the shade and makes a great bib for a tree, yielding delicate little flowers in the spring, deep green foliage the rest of the year, impossible roots good for nailing down soil on a shady slope.
But I digress. To encourage cat’s claw to get started, knowing that my desire to grow from seed will end all germination, I dig up plants with their leaves, roots, and fat little tubers. To show how undying these plants are, I always get them from one area of the house, where they pop up again and again, even though I have dug deep and yanked out everything I can. Beware the plant with tubers. No one will ever find all the tubers hidden in the ground with a Mormon’s attitude toward food storage. Take away the plant and the roots and most of the tubers. Still, one year of canned goods will wait in the ground, wait for some moisture and then attack the wall again.
To get the vine growing where I want it, I plant it sideways, burying its leaves in soil. The vine will object to the transfer and wilt, but the branches under a shovel of soil (or the weight of a rock) will take root and grow when spurred with plenty of water. One long vine may get many starts going along its branches. It is fun to see how this weak vine can revive itself through new shoots, which soon send fresh vines up the wall, roots into the soil, saving some energy on the side for tubers.
Vinca minor plants are very expensive, so gardeners place rocks on the plants to make them root and spread faster. We groan when God places burdens on us, but the burdens force us to become stronger and more vigorous.
Zinnias continue to amaze me. I have scattered the dry seed heads all around the yard where I water. More plants have started and are budding. More fresh zinnia blooms are starting. Others are fading into those floor-mop seedheads so full of life. The last enactment of the Parable of the Sower and the Seed took place before the rains. (I went through my seed packets and dumped everything I could on the ground. Literally. I planted nothing. I just scattered spinach, peas, and flower seeds.) I am willing to concede that some care and labor might have produced better results, but I think lots of seeds scattered carelessly are better than seeds not planted at all because it must be done just so.
A bird decided to visit our home. Chris rushed out while I was painting outside, during an interlude of sunshine, asking about a large crash she heard. Our sheltie’s ears went back, so Chris thought it was the dog’s fault. Agent Orange figures all disasters are her fault, so she adopts an immediate attitude of contrition to ward off any discipline, knowing in her cunning mind that three harsh words from me will evoke a firestorm from Chris protecting her. I am surrounded by Alpha Females. So I came into the house to track wet paint on the floor and spotted a bird inside, flitting about, hiding, staring at me. I believe it was a cactus wren. Using the herding techniques I learned in New Ulm, when starlings invaded the church through the furnace system, I got the bird outside again. Did it stop to thank me? No, it flew away in a mad rush.
Gratitude is not always in short supply in the avian world. Now when I go out to spend time in the back yard, I put a few scoops of sunflower seeds on the ground and in the feeder. The result is a clamor of bird calls as soon as I go outside. It reminds me of when a famous celebrity appears on stage and the audience bursts into loud, raucous applause. The star tries to suppress a smile but cannot. “They love me,” he thinks. The rush of bird calls has the same effect upon me. Call it Gospel motivation. Manipulation. Or just my imagination. But it sounds like, “You’re-a-great-guy. You’re-a-great-guy. You’re-a-great-guy.” How can I resist? I give them more seed.
All the creatures of the yard proclaim the glory and the artistry of the Creator.
KJV Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
May we always sing the praise of the Holy Trinity, thanking Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for our blessings.