Monday, June 25, 2012

Popper Party Time!

Day 155
The Daily DuBrule

The heat of last week moved a lot of plants into fast forward. One of the benefits of this weather is that my magic evening primroses have started to open. Affectionately called "poppers" by those of us who grow them, their official scientific name is Oenothera glazioviana 'Tina James Miracle'. Now that's a mouthful! They are true biennials. The first year they are rosettes of green leaves and look just like many other weeds in the garden. You have to know what they look like or you could easily pull them out. The second year they send up long flower spikes that can eventually reach 4-5' tall. Each day, buds start to swell. In the evening, at the magic hour when the sun has gone down and before it gets dark, the flowers open...right before your eyes they unfold... slowly... magically. A gentle "pop". People can't believe it! It takes patience (a good glass of wine helps) and faith. Impatient folks leave before the show begins. But once you've seen it, you treasure the experience. 

Poppers are pollinated by night flying moths. They emit a very sweet perfume. When you stick your nose deep in the flower, you always end up with a bit of pollen on the end of your nose. The time that they open changes as the time that the sun sets gets earlier and earlier. We've already passed the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, so it's all downhill from here. The timing of the opening of these flowers makes you realize how the length of the day keeps diminishing. In late summer, they get pretty ratty looking, with less and less flowers and more seed pods ripening. It's critical to let them form ripe seed, for without that seed, the cycle ends and you lose your poppers. The following spring, watch for the babies. Don't expect them to be where the poppers were last year. Mine have moved from their original location in my side yard by the deck, to the courtyard, and now to one of the raised beds in my vegetable garden. My husband has stopped wondering where I am after dinner and dishes. He knows I got out, graze on the sugar snaps, raspberries, and blueberries, and then wander over to these magical flowers and wait to watch them open. I am like a little kid, I never get sick of seeing it happens. It makes me smile.

I got my original plants from my employee Lisa who got them from David Brown of Old Saybrook who owns the Hay House Farm. I have shared my plants with friends and propagated them for the nursery. Because we are never open as the sun is setting and the poppers are popping, it doesn't really do any good to plant them at Natureworks. I get to enjoy them here at home, night after night, as the summer unfolds. 

Chairs set up to watch the show
Tina James, by the way, was an author who knew about these plants and had parties with her friends to celebrate watching them open. I've done that myself. Once you have seen this miracle, you want to share the experience.  

A couple of years ago I made a video showing this happening. It is really silly, I ramble on and on, but it sure is relaxing. Birds chirping, my water garden in the background, four and a half minutes devoted to watching the magic evening primroses open. Check it out. Enjoy.  Watch poppers:the video


  1. Fascinating. I love evening primrose flowers for their bright clear color, but didn't know they popped like that. The video is amazing. Now I know what to look for on a June evening when these are getting ready to bloom!

    1. HI Laurrie, Not all evening primroses do this. The common garden ones are open during the day. This is a very specific species. It is basically a pass-along plant but I have seen seeds available on the internet. If you live near Natureworks, I can propagate a plant for you. Nancy