Tag Archives: night-blooming cereus

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Shocking pink orchid cactus February bloomer and highly fragrant

Our gorgeous orchid cactus (Epiphyllum) has thrown us a bloom, just in time for Valentines Day! Last year, this newly propagated treasure gave us one dinner plate-sized blossom. This year, she possesses eleven ruby red buds from which are opening the most gorgeously hued and fabulously fragrant flowers. Blue-violet tinged electric orange-magenta outer petals surround Schiaparelli shocking pink inner petals, shading to a lime green throat, and highlighted by creamy yellow anthers and starry stigma. The flowers stay open for several days, unlike her relative the Night-blooming Cereus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum, whose blossoms last only a single night before wilting by dawn), and one in bloom scents an entire room, or several rooms.

A garden club plant sale special, I know not the name of this brilliant beauty. Her description does not wholly match the orchid cactus cultivars found on the internet and not a one mentions her fabulous fragrance. I purchased this very young plant several years ago at the Community Center in Rockport, at what I believe was the Rockport Garden Club’s annual plant sale. If any of my Rockport readers recognize the plant from the photo and know the name of this cultivar, or who has the parent plant, please email me.

* Shocking pink was fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s (1890- 19730) signature color and she described it as “life-giving, like all the light and the birds and the fish in the world put together, a color of China and Peru but not of the West.”

Moon Vine

It was my joy to give the lecture, held at the Wenham Museum’s North Shore Design Show, on gardening for fragrance. Thank you to Lindsay, Yvonne, Leon, Pauline, Elizabeth, Julie, Lisa, Sandra, Polly, Eliza, and everyone else whose name I did not get, for your interest and great questions.

No garden planted for fragrance would be complete without growing moon vine. Plant moonflowers and cypress vines in late May and early June for September blossoms. Moon vine will give you dreamily-scented late summer nights and cardinal climber will provide nectar for southward migrating Ruby-throated hummingbirds

Moon Vine, Moonflowers (Ipomoea alba)Our moon vine-embowered porch in September

“You can tell in the afternoon which buds will open that night. In the South, where I used to live, it was the custom to keep an eye on the moon vine, and when sixty or so buds showed they would open that night, to ask people over to watch them. Unfortunately, people in the country talk so much that I cannot recall seeing the buds open very often. They tremble and vibrate when they open. Usually someonewould say “the flowers are out,” and everyone would run over to admire them, then back to jabbering.

Equally festive is the night-blooming cereus. In our neighborhood there lived an old cereus in a tub. It was ninety-seven years old, the last time I saw it, and produced 120 flowers open at once. When it bloomed (and you can tell by afternoon which buds will open) its proud owner would phone round the neighbors and there would be punch or champagne (rather dangerous in hot weather) and cucumber sandwiches for refined persons, and ham and potato salad for mere mortals. These parties, once such a feature of the American summer, were always spontaneous, since you only had a few hours to plan them and invite people. It was always astonishing to see how many people could come at the last minute.”

— Henry Mitchell ~ The Essential Earthman


Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Cardinal Climber, Cypress Vine Ipomoea x multifida

Perhaps this is the summer we will have our first moon vine party–and I will provide tea sandwiches for my refined friends and ham and potato salad for we mere mortals. What fun to imagine. Grow cardinal climber and moon vine together for a delightful combination of delicately toothed  and bold heart-shaped leaves–day flowering red trumpets for the hummingbirds and night blooming sweetly scented blossoms for you.

*Logees Greenhouse carries night-blooming cereus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum).