It is okay to have some landscaping features in common with your neighbors. After all, you live in the same climate with the same general ecosystem. But sometimes there are unknown options that aren’t available generally in stores as plants. The flower sellers try to offer some new ideas, but people can be hesitant to try new things because of the cost of a whole plant. This makes it economically risky for the vendors to divert much from what people will be looking for. However, if a gardener is willing to start flowers from seed, lots of possibilities open up.
I would like to introduce you to a variety of night phlox called Midnight Candy. This is the first year I have grown this annual flower and I started it from seed mid winter. I planted the seeds in a tray full of potting soil, along with about 4 other kinds of flower seeds all in neat rows. The seeds are like fine white pepper, which are only supposed to be 1/16th inch “deep,” basically just pressed onto the surface. The regular light misting to water them was quite enough to implant them in the soil.
I kept them approximately 70 – 75° F until they germinated, which they did readily within the time frame of 7 – 15 days given on the seed packet from Select Seeds. (they seem to be sold out last time I checked, but hopefully they will get more by next year!) There was a high germination rate and the seedlings were easy to take care of. That is, they survived with regular watering in the greenhouse, even continuing to thrive when they got crowded as I was late in transplanting them. When I finally did transplant them into individual 3 -4 inch pots, they seemed to not even pause in their growth. They showed no signs of being spindly or stunted.
The plants look delicate, with their finely thin leaves, but I never had any trouble with hardening them off or when I transplanted them to their various outdoor locations. I am trying a couple of mini-climates around the yard, to see where they do best here in Southwestern Idaho. A few plants get several hours of morning to early afternoon sun, then shade from then on. A patio pot gets the sun almost all day. Another planter has them currently rubbing shoulders with heavenly blue morning glory volunteers that need some thinning and petunias that I planted on purpose in a hot spot. In each spot, they look healthy so far.
There is nothing about the plants to recommend them during the day time. They don’t look exactly like grass, but the foliage is not showy. The maximum height expected is one foot tall and not quite that wide. The blossoms look like odd little dark maroon balls balancing awkwardly on the tops of stems. After the sun goes down (or is adequately covered by clouds), the blossoms open up to neon white, which color I didn’t know existed until I saw these flowers. It is like they are solar powered, soaking up all the light during the day, then releasing it at dusk.
The best part is the fragrance. It is not too strong, but not subtle either. Really, it is addictive. I like to sniff at other flowers, like sweet peas and roses. Then, I walk away in the sweet memory of the encounter. The Midnight Candy leaves you wanting to sit there continually for just one more whiff! Yes, someone will think it should be illegal. Until then, it is a great habit for the end of a gardening day.