Moonflowers and the Grumpy Old Lady
At the time I was in my early 20’s and she was in her 70’s. Looking back I am sure I was a real game changer, as we were moving into an apartment that had been previously occupied by mainly elderly, retired people and the whole part of North Austin was becoming built out passed 183 and rent was going up.
I decided I was going to make my mark here and grew a little garden outside the building and all over my balcony. I was like the crazy cat lady but with plants instead of cats. She and I saw each other in passing but I mostly knew of her by the complaints she filed about our music, our this, our that. She was grumpy and unreasonable and we decidedly kept our distance. All the other neighbors liked me so it must be her right?
Most afternoons on the weekend my now husband, Cavin and I would sit on our beautiful jungle balcony and play Yahtzee and have coffee while we decided what to do for the evening. I rolled the dice and one went flying from the second floor into the yard behind us. Cavin walked around to the back of the complex and asked for my help in locating it. When I stood up and looked over I was taken aback by this intoxicating scent I had never smelled before. I started to peek into other courtyards for a clue; leaning as far as I could barely holding the rail with my foot, I see into a yard (grumpy lady) and see the cages of long white flowers in the shape of trumpets. At least 6-8 inches long, attached to stems with large brightly colored green leaves that were so unique in the landscape I had to have it! I had to know what it was…I was going in.
I had never really spoken to her before so I thought this was as good a chance as any to ingratiate myself and strike up a conversation. Well I’ll be damned if we didn’t hit it off and become great friends. She wasn’t grumpy at all; I probably was a pain in the ass at that age and she had been living there for 20 years. It was an important life lesson to be sure. Her name was Gladys and her sweet husband Dick (had been a surgeon his whole life); joyfully shared the extraordinary seed pods with me. I saved them for over a year waiting for the right place and time.
Once I planted them they were prolific and I have had them in my garden now for almost 30 years. I have shared them and this story with anyone who’d listen because gardening is a connection and once we can all benefit from even in the smallest amounts.
You will read a lot of things about this plant and its hallucinogenic properties but I do not encourage anyone to try that. Any plant that can get you high with two seeds and kill you with 3 doesn’t sound like a good plant for experimentation.
This is a toxic plant for obvious reasons and should be used with care, though as you see, a trained animal or child is a safe one. It is for full to part sun, an evening bloomer, goes dormant in the winter and can be considered an annual in a hard, several day freeze so be sure to keep seed pods from the previous year just in case. Super low water and little maintenance imparted to the return.
Another great benefit to this plant is that it open when the sun starts to go down and the “Hummingbird or Sphinx” Moth comes to visit at dusk which provides a beautiful show and conversation topic. The flower itself is incredibly fragrant, makes a great “Moonlight Garden” plant and after every bloom comes a new gift in the form of a seed pod you can share and continue spreading the love.
Lisa’s Landscape & Design
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”