Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Lady of the Night

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White, tidy, with a tiny center: An impatiens, maybe? 

 

Only if impatiens flowers were five-inch trumpets.  This is the extraordinary Cuban shrub, Lady of the Night. 

 

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The shiny leaves and dense growth suggest more camellia-like flowers, so these exploding-star sprays are a shock. 

 

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As long as the bush is happily in growth, they come in waves at the tips of each branch.

 

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Lady of the Night isn't generally hardy in-ground north of Orlando, but, happily, this slow-growing bush is very pleased about growing in a pot.  It's an eye-catching favorite—and, with its intoxicating evening fragrance, a thrill for your nose, too.

 

 

Here's how to grow this multi-talented beauty:

 

Latin Name

Brunfelsia nitida

Common Name

Lady of the Night

Family

Solanaceae, the Potato family.

What kind of plant is it?

Tropical evergreen flowering shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 10 - 11.

Habit

Compact and dense, full to the ground.

Rate of Growth

Moderate.

Size in ten years

In a pot, a rounded shrub under two feet tall and wide; in-ground, an under-the-window foundation shrub, i.e., not much beyond four feet tall and wide.

Texture

The foliage is shiny and dark green, like that of a camellia; combined with the dense but not rigid habit, Lady of the Night looks, out of bloom, like a generic but well-behaved foundation shrub.  Each wave of extraordinary long-tubed flowers, always right at the tips of new growth, gives the bush a welcome spell of giddy and even "fireworky" lightness.

Grown for

its ease of culture—see "Culture" below.

 

its naturally compact nature—see "Size in ten years" above.

 

its attractive shiny foliage.

 

its waves of thrilling tubular flowers.  Strikingly narrow five-inch trumpets suddenly widen out at the tip to five-petaled flowers two inches across.  The flowers open pure white and deepen to cream as they age.  All of the sudden in the evening, they emit a powerful, intoxicating, far-ranging and (thank goodness!) pleasant fragrance. 

 

its amenability to being grown in pots as well as in-ground.

Flowering season

Mainly late Spring through Fall, but with sufficient warmth and sun, sporadically year-round.

Culture

North of its Caribbean homeland, full sun and warmth; where native, filtered sun and warmth is better.  Flowers best when it doesn't lack for nutrition and water.  Slow-growing enough that it's just as happy in pots as it is in-ground.

How to handle it

While Lady of the Night is tolerant and even tough, blooming is best when you're a solicitous steward.  Each wave of flowers is produced at the very tips of new growth, so helping the bush stay actively growing is key. 

 

With its "hardiness" only down to Zone 10, this plant is totally tropical.  Temperatures below 60 degrees inevitably slow it down, albeit temporarily.  So would haphazard watering, nutrient-poor soil, or, in a pot, over-crowded roots.  

 

Unless you're gardening in the tropics (or the very-warm subtropics, like, say, Miami), you'll be growing Lady of the Night in a pot.  I'm able to keep mine dormant but alive over what, to the plant, at least, must seem like an eternal northern Winter, sitting quietly in a greenhouse that's heated only to 50 degrees at night.  In March, I shift the bush to a somewhat larger pot (or at least freshen up the soil before replanting in the same pot).  In May, I move it outside into full sun, watering as needed and lightly fertilizing with fish emulsion bi-monthly.  

 

I move my Lady back into the greenhouse before any danger of October frost.

 

In-ground, Lady of the Night is a welcome garden citizen because, for once, it's not a tropical plant that grows like a weed and therefore needs to be periodically attacked with pruners and saws.      

Downsides

None I'm aware of.  This is a plant that seems to elicit only raves, not caveats.

Variants

Other Brunfelsia species have larger flowers or flowers that change color as they age from blue to white.  (To my eye, this latter "Yesterday Today And Tomorrow" bush is always too colorful for its own good, with flowers in every color simultaneously.  It's a stunt, true, but not one that wears well.)  The intoxicating fragrance is typical, so how many Brunfelsia would you need to grow if any one of them provides a similar waft?  For my money, and with my always-overcrowded Winter greenhouse, Brunfelsia nitida is the winner. 

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

By cuttings or by seed.

Native habitat

Brunfelsia nitida is native to Puerto Rico and Cuba.

 
 
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