Saturday 21 September 2019

In the garden: Time to gamble on a blaze of morning glory

Morning glory is a tropical creeper that needs sunshine and warmth to thrive.
Morning glory is a tropical creeper that needs sunshine and warmth to thrive.

Gerry Daly

There is always a bit of a risk with morning glory that it might not do as well as desired. The gamble is decided by the weather. This is a tropical creeper from South America and, when it gets plenty of sunshine and warm weather, it is brilliant with its magnetic blue trumpets. If the summer is cool and rainy, it struggles.

This summer has seen mixed conditions for morning glory as there was good sunshine at times, but plenty of rain too, and great variation of rainfall between different parts of the country.

Of course, the plant can be grown in a greenhouse or conservatory where good results are much more easily achieved.

Morning glory belongs to the bindweed family with typical flat, funnel-shaped flowers, and heart-shaped leaves like those of the common white bindweed that grows wild in hedges here.

Like the bindweed, morning glory twists its slender shoots around any form of support.

In warm countries, sheets of morning glory can be seen covering waste ground and derelict sites, and it has become a weed, albeit a beautiful one. That problem is not likely to arise here because the plant cannot tolerate frost, and it is an annual, grown from seed each year.

Morning glory seeds are sown in February or March indoors in a pot in a warm room.

The seed coat can be hard and impermeable but the seeds are big enough to be lightly chipped with a nail-clippers, or soaked for a full day.

The seedlings, about five of them, can be started off in a smaller pot and then transferred in April or May into a bigger final pot. Use a mixture of half good garden soil and half compost, either good, well-rotted garden compost or bag compost.

The seeds germinate readily and the seedlings should be not watered too much in the early stages.

The plants can be kept in a porch, greenhouse or conservatory to flower, or they can be placed outdoors at the end of May on a paved area or to grow on a trellis or similar support. Pots can be fitted with a tripod of three or five canes to support the plants.

Morning glory is very fast-growing and should be fed with liquid feed every week or so to boost it. Use a high-potash or tomato food to encourage flowering.

There are several kinds of morning glory. The usual one grown is Ipomoea rubro-caerulea, which is variable in colour from light blue to deep blue-purple. 'Heavenly Blue' is a lovely light sky-blue form.

How do I treat my patchy lawn?

Q We have a patchy and stunted lawn, newly sown last April - any ideas? Is it too late in the year to apply a product and give it a boost? J Hourihan, Clare

A New lawns often get a bit tired-looking at this time of year as the grass is not as well established as it will be later. Also, the ground has usually been disturbed and levelled, and the fertility of the topsoil may not be great. Apply an autumn lawn feed now and a spring lawn feed in April to boost fertility. Most weeds present in a new lawn for the first year are soft weeds and they will die out under regular mowing. Mow lightly once a month or so through winter but only when the ground is firm.

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