What a sad denouement if I had not been so happy to see and smell the arrival of the Yellow Brugmansia. They take complementary sentinel positions opposite the French doors on my deck.
Although Brugmansia’s bloom with many blossoms at one time you can get lulled into thinking that you’ll always have flowers to enjoy. My experience here in my non-tropical Long Island NY weather zone is that these plants flower in waves. Each plant will put out many blooms at once and then rest for a few weeks before pouring out another batch.
Single Brugmansia Bloom
In order to keep the rythmn going I like to have a few different cultivars so that at any one time I’m either on my way with incoming buds or enjoying the actual huge flowers themselves. I’ve learned to enjoy the incoming bud stage since the one week of bloom time is too fleeting.
Actually, now that I think about it so were my 40’s and for that matter my 50’s as well.
Brugmansia suoveolens “Pink Beauty” in full bloom.
Here is my Brugmansia suoveolens “Pink Beauty” in full bloom. So how did that white one slip in? In the morning the flowers are white but as the day moves on they turn pink. Very Cool!
Well…one of the many things I like about my Brugmansia is that when the bloom first opens it is white and during the day the color gradually floods into this sensuous pink. Over time, as the blooms ripen they darken before they dissolve and drop. So what you have is the wonderful serenade of color chords which change over the hours and days.
This plant commands attention when in bloom.
These flowers start to give off their musky fragrance in the late afternoon.
I’ve overwintered this tree for many years now in my zone 6 home. Just before frost, I cut the tall stalks back to just one or two central leaders of about 4 foot in height removing all the side branches and all the foliage. I put the pots in an unassuming corner of the house and place them behind tall tropical ferns to hide them in their dormancy.
Beginning in February I begin to offer them small sips of water and by April I begin to put them out on the deck on warmer days to acclimate them to the weather. I find that they will endure more chill in the air than any of my other tropicals so this is a plus in a rather crowded home without a greenhouse for overwintering.
I tried my unheated garage one year and lost all my specimens so I won’t be trying that again soon! I don’t let them develop any leaves indoors since I find them prone to whiteflies and scale so I keep them as a summer treat.
What a treat! In the late afternoon, the musky odor of these amazing blooms wafts through the air and sneaks in the screens filling our home with summer. Although I do know that some people liken the smell to that of some floozy with overbearing cheap perfume flouncing her way dominantly into their senses.
Rhododendrons have such a great place in plant hunter’s history. Tales are still being told and re-enacted as new and old seekers traverse the back roads and non-roads of the Himalayas in search of the newest and rarest of Rhodies. Courage, stamina, and leeches always play a big role in these adventures.
Having quite a different perspective of plant hunting, I traverse the hills and dales of Long Island in search of the ever elusive cultivar not yet in my plant collection. Rather than being the intrepid adventurer of far off lands gathering seed, I drive to nurseries and make some of my decisions on whether I can lift the plant into my car. Rhodies can be backbreaking.
Which brings me to the problem of this Rhododendron catawbiense which is an original inhabitant when I bought the property in 1989. The foundation plantings were all huge view-concealing Rhodies. Over time I’ve managed to dig up and move all of them except this last remaining specimen. Some of the huge plants I moved by myself and in some cases, I hired a person with a bobcat. Some survived the transplanting and some didn’t. In retrospect, I think the fatalities had to do with watering and drought issues since the rootballs of Rhodies are pretty shallow and self-contained.
View from the dining room window of the Rhodi in bloom
The way to view Rhododendrons is not to the exclusion of a view of the rest of your garden when sitting at your dining room table. This view is only beautiful for 2 weeks a year when the rhodi is in bloom. The only other benefit to having this view is that in the winter you can use the leaf curl as a thermometer to determine if the temperature is below freezing. Not worth it I say. So, as I’ve said every year for the last decade or so, I’m going to move that Rhodie to the woods this year.