This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Reading in the Februray Monthly, Mr. Henderson's experience with Salvia splendens coeru-lea, has tempted me to give my own with a plant under the name which heads this note. I bought my plant of a Boston florist, also. It professed to be a rare novelty, and it was, though not in the way I expected. The description in the cata-loge represented it as a compact-growing plant, of not over two feet in height. A most abundant bloomer, with large pure white flowers, delightfully fragrant, and specially suited for bouquets, as it bloomed all summer. I felt particularly happy in the possession of this plant. Pure white, elegant, fragrant flowers, suitable for bouquets, don't grow on every bush. I gave it a rich soil, and a conspicuous position near the street, between my Lilies and Tea Roses. Then I smiled complacently to myself as I thought of the envy and admiration it would excite, and how passers-by would pause in wonder and delight at this rare plant. I must confess that they did pause; but not exactly the way my fancy had pictured. The way that plant grew was frightful to contemplate. It was fully seven feet high, with many strong lateral branches of two or three feet.
It so crowded out and overtopped everything else, that I was in despair, when one happy night, (Aug. 19, '79) a fearful tornado of wind and rain came to my aid, and Nicotiana suavolens (?) broke short off about two inches from the ground to my great relief. How large it would have been when it got its growth I shall never know. I am also in utter ignorance to this day as to what the plant really was, for though I wrote to the florist of whom I bought it, enclosing a stamp, he did not deign to reply. Perhaps he did not know himself. I have written this with the hope that the good Editor of the Monthly, or some of his wise correspondents will take pity on my ignorance and enlighten me, if they can do so by a mere description. Both stock and leaves were of a pale, pure pea-green. The leaves, which were on long petioles, were broadly ovate, from four to five inches long, glabrous, entire, and of a leathery consistence. The flower was utterly insignificant, without either beauty or fragrance. In color they were a pale, dingy greenish yellow, and in form stiff, erect tubes, about the size of an ordinary lead pencil, an inch to an inch and a-half long, and about as broad at the top as a silver half dime.
They were scattered along a straggling, leafy raceme, never more that two or three open at a time, as they soon faded. I am familiar with the Nicotiana cultivated for tobacco, but this was not at all like that. Friends! Countrymen ! Do you know this novelty?
[The plant appears by the description to be the true Nicotiana suaveolens, which is a New Holland plant, and a coarse weedy thing of no particular interest to the cultivator, except that it is reported to be very sweet at night. Those who sent it out in such a flaming way, should be ashamed. It may be said however that American seedsmen often get these seeds from Europe, and merely copy the descriptions sent with them. But they ought to know the reputations of those they deal with, if they wish to give other people's cuts and praises as their own. - Ed. G. M].
A small pinch of seeds sent us by some friend, sown in the open ground in May, has had hundreds of pretty white flowers from August to frost. Though not particularly "suaveolent," it is an attractive border flower, and of very good habit of growth.
After reading the article in the April number of the Monthly, from Mrs. E., relating her experience with Nicotiana suaveolens, I think I can give her some light on the subject. She has evidently not had the true N. suaveolens, but a species of tobacco which I also have tried, much to my dissapoiutment. Its specific name I am not sure of, but think it is N. glauca, a native of South America. Last summer I had the true N. suaveolens, which I consider a very desirable plant. I obtained the seed from Hovey & Co., Boston, and planted several together in a clump. It quite nearly answers the description which Mrs. E's. spurious plant so falsified. I know that to be a coarse and worthless weed; but the true plant which I had in bloom all summer until killed by frost, was covered with salver formed, white flowers, something over one inch across, on a slender greenish tube, reminding one of the single white Narcissus, and in the evening exhaling a delicate perfume.
By referring to Bentham's Flora Australi-ensis, vol. 4, pp. 469, I think you will see that N. suaveolens there described is not the plant Mrs. E. had under that name, and though it sports into several varieties, none have a small greenish corolla, or otherwise answer to Mrs. E's. description of her plant.
I should without hesitation recommend N. suaveolens as a very desirable addition to our list of easily grown annuals. It should be planted several together, as not enough blooms on a single plant open at once, to make it a conspicuous object.