Almost everyone loves Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor ), those carefree, easy to grow vines who reward gardeners almost everywhere with abundant flowers in late summer and early fall, often right up to frost if conditions are right. They also self seed with a vengeance, and depending on how you feel about having them in weed status in your garden, they can be either a joy or an infernal pest and sometimes both.
Years ago we planted a mix of blues, purple and pinks along the sidewalk fence and haven't replanted them since, and they've since reached noxious weed status in that part of the garden now, much to Fernymoss' chagrin about the profusion of pink blooms. We really have been striving to eliminate the pinks (sorry, Olivia!) the past couple of years, but we just can't keep up with the number of seedlings that come up every year. Though I usually protest that we have more purples ('Grandpa Ott' variety), he's not going to be satisfied until the pinks have been eliminated ... so sometime soon before frost and before the seeds mature, all the Morning Glories along the fence are going to be pulled and sent to the compost.
The new plan is to plant Spanish Flag (Mina lobata) along the fence in an attempt to get it to self seed, and confine our Morning Glories solely to the 'Heavenly Blues' and 'Grandpa Ott' varieties. Lest this plan sound a bit harsh to you, I'd just say that once established, Morning Glories can really become a pest ... they travel around the garden coming up here and there, and unless they are provided with support to grow, they can become positively noxious when a few escape pulling and start dragging down flowers in other parts of the garden. The lesson we've learned is that we needed to be more scrupulous where we planted them, thus the attempt at eradication plan we feel is necessary at this point. Don't get me wrong, we love Morning Glories, especially the blues, but we've decided they need to be reined in a bit and confined to another area, which this year is the small bed to the right of our front steps, in with some Bee Balm, Primroses, Meadow Sage and a couple of Toad Lilies. We'd tried planting a couple of Clematis on a trellis we have in the bed, but they never amounted to anything and eventually died out ... so did the supposedly hardy Passion Flower vines we planted there as well. After all that costly effort to no avail, this year we said: purple and blue Morning Glories only there! And this is exactly where you'll find the flowers pictured tonight.
At least this way we can guiltlessly pull others where they come up and reserve a few seedlings in this area to grace the trellis for the next few years until we've completed the pink eradication. (I know, that sounds suspiciously like a 'final solution' but sometimes in the plant world if you want to get your way with aggressive plants, it's got to be done!) In any case, I do think that any gardener worth the salt (or pepper) should have Ipomoea tricolor somewhere in the garden, and if you're careful about where you let them get established you might escape weed status if you're vigilant about it. Still, even if they get away from you, you're almost guaranteed non-stop blooming pleasure once it starts ... as long as you obey the cardinal rule of growing Ipomoea: don't ever feed them with any kind of fertilizer. If you do, you'll get luscious, profuse, huge foliage and few if any blooms! Plant them only in poor to average soil in full to part sun, making sure that they have a support to grow up on and then let them do their thing. It's that simple. Let them die off at frost and either harvest the seeds or just let the vines go till spring (when they're all crispy and easy to clean up) and you'll be sure to have them come back the following year.
Photos by Fernymoss, taken 16 September, 2007