MORNING GLORY SEEDS
PLANTINGPlanting isn't tricky. They need to be watered regularly, but the depth isn't crucial, just so the roots can get hold and there's some dirt to keep the moisture on. But if you really want a number, 1/2", give or take. It will seem like they're not coming up. It will take a couple of weeks, maybe more. And then they'll all seem to come up at once, cracking the ground. The seedlings look like two squarish leaves. They poke through leaf-first and then open.
If you want them to come up more quickly, soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting them. It's more crucial to water them often if you do that, if you're in the desert.
They don't transplant so well, in my experience, so I'm writing about planting them in the ground. A couple of people wrote and said they had transplanted them fine. I moved some with a shovel this year, not really caring if they survived it or not, and most of them did.
WHAT THEY NEEDMorning glories need a fence or strings to climb. If you don't have a wire fence, you might use the plastic netting made to keep birds out of fruit trees, and fasten it up to other things with twistie-ties, but as long as they have something for their tendrils to twirl around, they can climb.
Above right is a photo of scraps of the kind I use most. It comes on rolls, sometimes sold for keeping birds off fruit trees. You could use chicken wire or hog wire, but with plastic you can take it down every year or three and throw it away and start over, without it being so much work and expense. There should be an video of how the vines grow, to the right. If you can't see it, go here: http://sciencetrack.blogspot.com/2007/07/twining-motion-of-vines.html Thank you, Rue Kream, for sending that to me!
You can plant them and put the fence up later. You'll have a few weeks before they want to climb.
Good time to mention they're considered weeds in some places?
TIMINGAt the store, a seed pack of morning glories might have a couple of dozen seeds. The packet will say "after all danger of frost is past. . ." but that's a long time to wait. After most suspicion of frost is past, you could plant half your seeds. It will take over a week for them to sprout up. Frost while they're in the ground is fine.
I used to work with a retired army sergeant. We interviewed applicants together for a position once. He told each one "If you take your time and do it right, you never have to do anything twice." I said, "If you do it fast enough, you have time to do it again; but if you did it right the first time, you have time to go on to something else."
If you plant your seeds early and the frost gets them, you might could have a back-up batch to plant later. If frost doesn't get the first batch, you can plant your second set later and have more!
THICK OR THINThe store packets say to thin the plants. I never have. It gives them more things to grow up on. Some people like to have a very controlled pattern, with one vine up a single string. But you could have two or three up a single string. Back-up plans, again.
WHAT CAN THEY DO?They can grow really high. Like 20'. So if you have a place where you can let them go up into a tree they can keep on going. They won't hurt a mature tree, and the vines die off every year, so it's not like letting perennial vines choke a tree. If you have a dead tree, the flowers will really show, Or you could make an arbor, by putting net from a fence to the roof of the house or a shed, and they might make a shade for you.
WHEN DO THEY BLOOM?They'll start to make flowers when the vines are two or three feet high, usually. [WAIT... Seems to depend on moisture, in part. This year/2006 it rained like CRAZY at our house, and I've had some get ten feet tall and not bloom. Then they bloomed. I had heard before that water creates growth and drought makes blooms. I wouldn't dehydrate the poor things just to get blooms, but maybe there was something to this water claim all along... ]
They'll bloom in the morning and close by noon or so. Each flower only opens once, but there will be others the next day! It's fun to see them cycle through. You can tell which are tomorrow's—they look like stick-umbrellas closed up, and you can see the color, and the edges, all twisted the same direction like someone carefully closed an umbrella.
VAGUELY EXPONENTIAL GROWTHOne bloom will make from four to six seeds, sometimes fewer, and very occasionally seven or eight. One seed can make a vine with dozens of blooms.
READINESSTo gather your own seeds, wait until you see seedpods totally dry, with the green cover-parts dried up and turned back toward the stem, and just hold a cup or something under that and break it. Each flower can make several seeds. Occasionally one only makes one seed, but I've seen seven in one pod. Whatever falls will just plant for next year!
If you live in a very wet place, you might have to get them when the pods are like wet paper rather than like dry paper, and let them dry inside, uncovered. When they're really dry you can cover them up. At the very end of the season, in winter, some seeds might not have developed. Leave those on the vine. If some do continue their cycle, they can fall and plant something for next year, but some will just never work out from that time of the plant's life.
FOCUSReading on flat pages, sewing a line of cloth, scanning the horizon, or a shelf at a store, all involve focusing one's eyes at a certain distance. Looking for morning glory seeds changes everything. Sometimes, at first I'll look and see none. But I stop staring, stop focusing, and start thinking of just being in one area until I see seeds. Usually, then I see some. And once I find some, there are more. But the looking is different. All I can remember in that way is helping my granny pick peas, string beans or okra. Seeing one on the plant isn't good enough. It has to be ripe and ready. Picking red apples and tomatoes doesn't transfer, as they show up starkly against their backgrounds. But these are smaller, and trickier.
I can focus on the closest parts of the vine, or transfer focus to the other side of the fence. But many seeds are between the front and the back. They're at all different angles. And they're mixed in with seeds still green. I can't wait until they're all ready, or most will have opened and fallen. And so I have to scan lightly, with different patterns and different ways than I've ever done before.
PERSPECTIVEStanding on a crate helps. Being on a ladder can help. Sitting on the crate and finding seeds near the ground helps. Being several people at once could help, but that I can't do. And so I look from below, and then from above, and I always find something I missed before.
MORNING GLORIES AS A MODEL OF THE UNIVERSEMaybe they're not the greatest model of the whole universe, but they can be a portal. Many mornings I go out early to see the flowers and collect seeds, and I've had many deep thoughts in the early stillness. I like that each one blooms once. I like the delicate shape of them, and that light can shine through. I think of other houses I've lived in, and where the morning glories grew in those yards, and of morning glory shades I played under as a little girl at my granny's house.
They're all the same yet all different. It made me think of children, and families, and unschooling. But then just about everything does!
Dave in Denver wrote:
I really do love that you put morning glories on your site. They are my favorite flower (certainly not a weed) I spend time with ours in the morning before work and in the evening after work. I like to coax them up the strings that I've designed for them. This year I've just done a fan shape and it's filling in nicely. One year I made a spider web about 8X8 and worked the vines all summer to create a really cool design. (Dave's flowers are in the loop below, and you can click on that to see them still and larger.)