In the Garden:
Roughing up with a file or serrated knife creates openings in the hard coats of moonvine seeds, which helps them absorb the moisture needed to germinate faster.
Of Morning Glories and Moonvines
Now that we've had our first spell of warm weather, I'm thinking about ways to use plants to cool down the season ahead. My favorite strategy involves planting annual vines, especially morning glory and moonvine. These are two closely related plants that make an unbeatable team. But to grow them well, you need a few tricks.
Priming the Seeds
Both of these vigorous nightshades are easily grown from seed, but the seed coats of moonvine (Ipomea alba) are so hard and thick that it pays to scarify them before planting to hasten germination. Scarifying the seeds means to scratch or nick an opening in the seed coat through which moisture can enter. I scarify moonvine seeds by scraping them on a metal file until I barely see a patch of white showing through the brown seed coat. Then I soak them in warm water for 24 hours before planting to jump-start the germination process. The seeds of morning glory (Ipomea purpurea and its hybrids) are too small to handle that way, so I help them along by soaking them overnight in 1 cup of water mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar. This combination helps soften the seed coat, letting water in so germination can begin.
One of the great advantages of planting moonvine and morning glory together is that the two plants bloom at different times of day. The pure white moonvine blossoms open in the evening to perfume the night air, while the more colorful morning glories open by daybreak and close in early afternoon. The best location to plant is along a fence or trellis that's within view of your house or patio. Make the most of their summer vigor by siting them where their lush foliage will block out excessive afternoon sun.
Keep Them Contained
Bear in mind that morning glory is an enthusiastic reseeder, though large-flowered hybrids are less invasive than common strains. My solution is to grow morning glories adjacent to an open expanse of lawn that is regularly mown to eliminate any problems.
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