Ciao and Hello! I am so sorry for the prolonged absence from The Magnifying Glass...traveling back to the States for six weeks and hosting visitors here in Sicily led to a longer than expected hiatus, but we are now "plugged" back in and have lots to share from our recent adventures starting with one of our favorite summer time activities.
Summer days in Sicily are hot and dry which means we usually emerge later in the afternoons and evenings to enjoy the cooler breezes and dramatic sunsets. And we aren't the only ones who perk up later in the day: our four o'clock flowers do, too. It is easy to see how they got their common name because their blooms really do unfurl during the cooler parts of the day. It is pretty amazing to see those flowers opening up each afternoon right on schedule. Actually, it isn't an internal clock, but more of a thermometer that prompts them to open up later in the day and close back up again when the temps rise with the morning sun.One of my favorite summer activities as a kid was making flower crowns and bracelets from the four o'clocks that thrived in our yard and it is so much fun to now share that experience with my kids. It's a simple, but very satisfying process. Here's what we do: find a long piece of grass/weed stem, pick a bloom, pinch off the end and pull out the stamen, thread on the grass, and repeat until you have a lovely scented lei.
Four O'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) are tropical and nocturnal plants which means they grow best in warmer climates and they open at dusk. Their enticing scent attracts hawk moths and sphinx moths. The seeds are also fun and easy to collect especially for eager little hands...just be sure no one eats them or decides to stick one up a nostril (like my mother did when she was a child...she didn't tell anyone until it began to swell and germinate). In warmer climates the four o'clocks will usually re-seed and multiply for future summers, but in cooler areas save the seeds for planting next spring or dig up the tubers that are formed and store those in a safe spot for re-planting in the spring (similar to what is done with dahlias).
I hope you and your families are enjoying this summer season (or winter if you are in the Southern hemisphere). Have been growing anything fun, interesting, or tasty in your yard this season? If so, please tell us about it!