Alice Harding, whose book “The Peony” is a classic on the subject of growing peonies once remarked, “Had I but four square feet of ground at my disposal, I would plant a peony in the centre, and proceed to worship.” My sentiments exactly. But there are other plants that might make muster in my four square feet. Most certainly nicotiana would be high on my list. My three foot square Tuscan box is full of them at this moment, and they are looking good. Henry Mitchell describes peonies as “that rare combination of fluff and majesty”-nicotiana could not be further from that description.
The flowers are utterly simple. A long slender tube fans out at the end into 5 distinctly scalloped lobes. They look back at me with that guiless and frank signature look. The nod in the breeze. Can you tell I really like them? There are lots of species, hybrids and cultivars; I like them all. Nicotiana sylvestris grows better than 6 feet tall, always needs staking, and attracts every aphid in the neighborhood-so I rarely grow that. The diminuitive nicotiana langsdorfii is a charmer.
Perfume purple and Perfume white are lovely. They seem to maintain that same graceful spacing along the flowering stems as the species nocotiana alata. Shorter nicotiana, such as the Avalon series, have densely bunched flower heads that lack grace to my eye.
By far and away, my favorites are nicotiana alata lime, and nicotiana mutabilis. I like them even better, grown in a mix. Nicotiana mutabilis grows tall, and also needs staking, but it is worth the trouble. Hundred of white, pink, and rose pink flowers grow on the same plant. It is never better for me than it is in September; it will put on incredible growth in the fall. The tiny flowers are always fluttering over something.
They are not fond of really hot weather, so I have no idea what will become of this planting. Those that talk weather are saying it will be really hot here for another month. You wouldn’t think this giant pot would dry out very often, but it is a rare hot day that I do not have to soak the corners. Do I water parts of container plantings-absolutely. I did soak it thoroughly this morning, knowing there was a possibility our temperature would hit 100 degrees today. So I had time to take a long look.
What else am I growing here? Pink mandevillea, white angelonia, Persian Queen geranium, white mini petunias, and white variegated trailing plectranthus. I have an event going on here-a nicotiana fest.