By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS
No, I do not mean our daily weather ups and down, I am referring to a very easy growing, flowering shrub-like plant, the Brunfelsia Pauciflora, otherwise known as the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow shrub. It is a native of Brazil where it is called the Brazilian raintree.
The family is Solanaceae, think nightshade plant, and so is a relative of the tomato plant. The plant was named after an early German herbalist, Otto Brunfels.
This nightshade plant is not be eaten in any way - the leaves, blossoms and every other piece of the plant are poisonous. So many of our best blooming plants are very harmful when ingested. You must never snack on anything you plant until you have found out if it is edible. Do not trust the plant tag to inform you. It is not a good marketing tool to push the sale of anything poisonous and because we are not really expecting to be buying shrubs and flowers for food, they may not be marked.
This shrub has lovely pansy-like blossoms that will last three days at a time. Each day a single bloom will change its color and at times you will have three different colors. The first day will be a deep lavender, changing to a pale lavender the second day and then to an almost white color.
The blooms also have a light fragrance. The one I have is 5 feet tall and only needs a regular 10-10-10 fertilizer in the spring and may need some watering during a drought time. It gets some before noon full sun and light shade the rest of the day, and it has been in the same spot for over 15 years.
Because it is close to the lanai screen, I do trim it more than if it were set away from the screen. It also sets next to a giant copper leaf shrub that tries to push it out of its space, but they look well together so they just have to make do. You can trim it easily and can even propagate the young growth in the spring. It is a major project for me to clip here and there and set up a tray and some coarse sand and do rooting stuff and plastic bags, etc., but if you like that, do it. This shrub can do well in a container but will probably need more watering, and if inside, would need some humidity.
This is a spring, summer and fall blooming plant and does not tolerate a lot of frosty weather, however mine has held up for years and I do not cover it. The nice copper leaf may be protecting it, as well as the lanai.
You may not fine this for sale right now but while you are inside looking at catalogs for spring plantings, keep this shrub in mind.
I complained recently about losing some tender little geraniums, however I am having great luck with what we all call a geranium in the back yard. It is really a Pelargonium. Years ago it was a geranium but some smart person decided that it should not be lumped together and separated it into its own genus. No big deal to us except we tend to call all things that look like a geranium, a geranium. It will make a difference in how it tolerates life in your garden, not much but the pretty Pelargonium will tolerate the cold better. It does not like a lot of frosty nights but I have one in a pot that is doing very well and the fuchsia colors are just brilliant. More about the actual difference in their petal structure and which is which at a later time.
A plant that is acclimated to the cool air can stay out there even without serious covering - you need to know your plants. It is also not good to bring a plant into a warm, dry, inside environment and expect it to thrive for several days and then place it back outside. The garage, however, is a safe place for an overnight or two. Some people have a dolly to use for something like a large potted desert rose that they do now want to get frosted. I have a potted one out there that is 8 or 9 years old, and while it is not the best blooming desert rose ever, it does tolerate frosty weather with a covering of an old sheet. This is one of those years that I used old sheets often.
I have lost a couple of things, after all, frost a couple times a week is not what our tropical landscapes are used to. Me either. However, it is amazing how many things out there can stand the 90s in the summer and still thrive in winters like this one. I am going to wait a couple more weeks before I do any serious cutting of cold damaged things. They look somewhat droopy and spotted, but opening up stems and limbs, right now may endanger their survival if we do have another quick frost night. I really think we are done with all the frosty nights, but keep alert.
Happy gardening till we meet again.
H.I. Jean Shields is past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.