When I ordered flower seeds from a catalog last spring, the company, Select Seed (I tend to use a different one every year, just to keep the catalogs coming), threw in a free packet of Nicotiana alata, also known as jasmine tobacco. I love the sweet-smelling flowers of nicotiana, so I was pretty excited. I wasn’t, however, excited enough to start the seeds indoors, as the package advised. Instead, I tossed the nicotiana seeds in the ground when I did my first direct outdoor sowing of seeds, on St. Patrick’s Day. The other stuff I planted then—poppies, cornflowers, calendula, larkspur—duly grew, bloomed and withered. I forgot about the nicotiana, to tell the truth. By the time the dreadful heat of July gave way to the monsoon rains of August, I was pretty much done with gardening for the year.
The nicotiana, however, weren’t done with me.
I noticed them about a week ago, in the back of the bed. I went to college in North Carolina, so I know what tobacco looks like in the ground. And the big, strong monsters of plants coming up back there looked like Carolina’s best. There are flower stalks on them as well, growing up from the center. They look to be a few weeks away from blooming at the moment. The trouble is, jasmine tobacco isn’t hardy. Which means that if frost hits, I’ll never get to see my huge, gorgeous nicotiana plants bloom!
So it’s a race, out there in the garden bed. Oh, I know, when it’s as hot and muggy as it was today, and the Phils are still playing, it seems like summer. But autumn arrived last Friday, ready or not. (And I was not.) Which will get here first, I wonder—frost, or frosty white nicotiana flowers?
Incidentally, you can make cigarettes out of jasmine tobacco once you cure it, and there’s a ton of info on the Internet about how to cure the leaves after you pick them. Too bad I quit smoking. That would have made for a most interesting DIY!