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Four Oclock: Fragrant Blooms for the Evening Garden


If you like fragrant plants, the old-fashioned Four Oclock will be one of your favorites. Small pink blooms scent the garden with their sweet perfume every evening during summer. Mirabilis jalapa is a shrub-like multibranched perennial plant that emerges each spring from a large carrot-shaped tuber. The common name Four Oclock comes from its fascinating habit of opening its blooms around 4 oclock in the afternoon. That alone is enough to intrigue me, since I have a natural interest in plants with unusual traits. Although it's called Four Oclock, in our garden Mirabilis actually opens her blooms around 5:30 pm, perfuming the air right about the time it begins to cool off enough to sit in the shade on the patio.
Four Oclock is very easy to grow. Easy to please, four oclock can be grown in sun or shade. Our plants get morning sun and afternoon shade, but four oclock grows equally well in full shade with a reasonable amount of water. She's not a water hog, but good soil with regular water will keep the plant looking healthy and green with plenty of those fragrant blooms. Just so you'll know, plants in our shade garden get very little water, yet still bloom and multiply with profusion. Plants in the sun that receive occasional water perform just about as well as those in dry shade. The few Four Oclocks we have in dry sun are just surviving.
I can't really describe the fragrance--it's just a sweet, pleasant scent that invites me to relax outdoors. You might not notice the scent until your plant gets large with many blooms. And if you're never outdoors in the evening, well...you'll just miss out entirely.
Another important feature of the fragrant Four Oclock is that hummingbirds just adore it! The hot pink blooms are tubular and full of nectar for both butterflies and hummingbirds. You'll further enjoy sitting on the patio observing the tiny creatures flitting about around the plants.
Four Oclock dies to the ground with the onset of winter in colder zones, but re-emerges again in late spring. Hardy in USDA Zones 7-11, mirabilis can be grown anywhere in the southern half of the United States.
I must tell you also that Four Oclock is definitely a reseeder. Toward the end of summer you'll notice small black cannonballs on the plants and the ground beneath. Those are very viable seeds. If you've had no luck growing Four Oclock from seed, that's because these very hard seeds need a cold treatment to break them. It's best to plant them in fall, but most gardeners don't think about it then and seeds often are not available in the big box stores at that time of year. You'll have nearly instant gratification if you go ahead and purchase a tuber instead. Heavy black carrot-shaped tubers will send up a stem very quickly after planting in warm summer soil. Four Oclock tubers are available for summer shipping from Shady Gardens Nursery.

Gardening Is More Than Just Growing Plants!

It's true--gardening involves more than just growing plants!
Gardens need animals, for various reasons. In our garden, we have a dog for chasing off critters that eat the plants, chickens for eating insects that eat our plants, and cats for keeping away mice (which also will eat plants.) Every garden needs a cat, but not too many.
We do have too many cats. Much too often, someone else decides we don't have enough cats and another kitten is dropped off at our front gate. Most recently my husband found a cute little critter asleep right beside the road at our mailbox. Instead of doing the responsible thing and have their cats spayed or neutered, some irresponsible @$$#*!~ just allow their little cats to keep having litter after litter and they deposit the little babies on the side of the road when they no longer want them. This activity is one of the worst things a person can do, and it angers my family much more than I can say.
We are animal lovers here, and it's difficult for us to get attached to a cute little baby and then give it away. That's what we have to do every few months, because we can not possibly provide a home for every little baby animal we find up at the road. Leaving a baby kitten at someone's mailbox should be a crime. It is, in my opinion. Each time this happens, we do the best we can to find a good home for the little thing. If unable to find the kitten a good home, we keep it.
We now have 5 cats--3 toms and 2 females. We love them all. Yesterday we gave away the most recent little baby to a wonderful girl who responded to our advertisement on the local Christian radio station. (We list the babies on that station only, praying that only good people would be listening.)
It ripped out my little girl's heart to give away the kitten in the photo above. Children grow attached to cute little baby animals so fast. If I could catch the person who keeps doing this to us, I'd sock them in the nose. It might make no sense to you that I write an animal lover post on a garden blog, but as I said, cats do belong in a garden. And since gardeners are usually concerned about the environment to a great degree, I figured you all would not mind if I vent a little. We all should do what we can to prevent the cruel neglect and abuse of allowing cats to have litter after litter of kittens to just deposit on highways all over town. We plan to install a video camera at our gate so we can get a tag number!