It may not look like it–and some groundhogs may beg to differ–but it’s almost spring here on Long Island (we’ll pause so you can take a victory lap around the room) and we’d like to think, at this very moment, our favorite garden is stirring beneath our snow-covered, rainbow-colored, star print, 100 percent all-natural rubber Chookah rain boots–yes we do wear them in public.
Daphne du Maurier’s nameless heroine in Rebecca describes the blooms at Manderley estate as “crimson faces…slaughterous red, luscious and fantastic…monsters, rearing to the sky, massed like a battalion, too beautiful…too powerful…not plants at all.” With this in mind we’ve decided to design our own haunting garden, one that smells sweetest, like cloves and honey, and whose flowers only come to life in the darkest hours of the night.
You can actually watch the petals of the moonflower open from tight 5-pointed stars to large white trumpets in about 60 seconds as they release a strong, fruity bergamot fragrance as the moon rises. Known as the “devil’s trumpet”—or “angel’s trumpet”—depending on how you roll, the Moonflower is a classic “witches’ weed” which Nathaniel Hawthorne refers to in The Scarlet Letter as Apple-Peru.
These blooms won’t last the entire summer, but for a few weeks they will bring a sweet honey, candy-like fragrance to your garden. In other words, they smell like Twizzlers. Night Phlox has clusters of delicate maroon petals by day that loosen and open into pure white flowers as the sun does down.
This 5-foot tall night bloomer has clusters of hanging trumpet-shaped white blossoms that smell extremely sweet and reflect the moonlight. It is thought to be one of the parents of modern tobacco. But, unlike cigarette smoke, sniffing this bad boy second-hand won’t kill you.
Considered the most fragrant of all lilies the huge, pure white 5-inch blooms of the August Lily open in late summer evenings to perfume warm nights and then close up tightly by the time morning arrives.
Beginning just after 4 p.m., these night flowers open in a wide range of beautiful colors. The cool thing about four o’ clocks is that their flowers have endless color combinations. Some are solid, some are splashed with different colors, and all of them change their color as they mature.
By day, these blossoms look withered, but by nightfall droopy petals erupt in a mix of purple, pink and white star-shaped blooms that fill the air with a spicy-vanilla scent that is strongest at midnight.
Aztec healers called this night-bloomer, ‘Omixochitl’ or ‘bone flower.’ The tuberose is believed to be an aphrodisiac and to counteract stress. Its fragrant waxy white flowers grow in 18-inch spikes and open from bottom to top. It is also used in Hawaii to create leis and was considered a funeral flower in Victorian times. Its exotic fragrance is often an ingredient in high-end perfumes.
This is the closest to a black rose you’re going to get. The deep purple buds of the ebb tide rose stay open all day and all night, but look smoky in the moonlight, smell strongly like cloves, and add a sultry mystery that will make your garden seem magical–and just a little bit sinful.