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Morning Glories in Maine

October 9, 2009

Morning glories blooming on fence (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) For the past five years, I’ve been growing morning glories (Ipomoea) on the patio fence in my southern Pennsylvania garden. I sow the seeds in early May, and thin them before I leave for Maine in late May. When I return to Pennsylvania in late August, I have a fence covered with gorgeous blue blossoms, a display that brings me pleasure for weeks through the fall. So part of my plan for the new fence border in my Maine garden was to have morning glory vines climbing the fence and covering it with ‘Heavenly Blue’ flowers in September.

I should have realized that you can’t just transplant a zone 6 garden idea to a zone 4 garden. Growing morning glories in Maine presents some special challenges; the soil doesn’t get warm enough to germinate the seeds until early June, and it is not unheard of to have frost in late August.

I planted my morning glory seeds along the bottom of the fence on June 1, the first safe frost-free date. By mid-June, they had all germinated and made their first true leaves; so I thinned them to 6” apart. But during the cool and rainy months of June and July, the vines hardly grew at all, reaching only about 1’ long. Then, in early August, we had a spell of hot, humid weather, and the morning glories grew like crazy. By the last week in August, they were climbing the fence in a very satisfactory fashion, they were covered with dozens of tiny flower buds, and a few flowers near the bottom of the fence had actually bloomed.

Then, on August 31, the evening weather forecast included a frost advisory for Oxford County, Maine – only a few miles from my home. I worried about whether I should worry about frost. The meteorologist said that the danger was greatest in “the normally colder river valleys.” Was that me? I live quite near the Little Androscoggin River, and the low temperatures at my house in winter are noticeably colder than the nearby cities of Auburn and Lewiston. Or, did the fact that my house is at the top of a hill protect me? I considered going out and throwing a plastic drop cloth over the fence, tucking it in at the bottom to protect my morning glories – but then I got busy doing other things and forgot. Fortunately, I woke up in the morning to temperatures in the low forties and no frost. My morning glories were safe, at least for now.

In the first two weeks of September, the vines got longer and the buds got bigger, but only a few more morning glories bloomed; and as I prepared to go away for a week’s vacation, I worried about my plants. Could I really count on a frost-free week in Maine in mid-September? The seven-day forecast was calling for overnight lows in the thirties. Suppose I came back to find blackened vines hanging limply from the fence? I decided to throw my plastic drop cloth over the fence to protect the vines and hope for the best. When I came back, I found not only healthy vines, but quite a few spent blooms. This was progress! During the next two weeks, my morning glories reached the height of their bloom, with a few blossoms opening on the fence each day. But I never got the dozens of flowers that grace my fall mornings in Pennsylvania.

It is now the second week of October. We (amazingly) have still had no frost, and my morning glories are covered with big fat buds. But, as the days get cooler and shorter, the flowers are having trouble opening properly. I realize that I am not going to get my blanket of heavenly blue on the fence this year. Could this idea work in a year with more normal temperatures in June and July? Possibly. I’m not willing to give up yet, so I’ll try growing morning glories in Maine again next year.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2009 12:58 pm

    Hi Jean, I love morning glories too. The last house we lived in I grew them at the base of the steps and they entwined the railing all the way up to the porch. It was a steep set of steps…the garage was under the family room so you had to walk ‘up’ to get into the house. Anyway, they were lovely. I bought 4 packets of seeds this year, each different colors, but I never planted any! I have worried that my lighting isn’t right for them (mostly shade) in the areas I ‘ve thought about putting them. Plus, I just never got around to it! I’m hoping to plant some next year.

    Isn’t it interesting to see the differences between the 2 climates? You want to grow things that do better in another climate…but ‘take what you can get’ of them, even if they aren’t quite as full and don’t thrive quite as much;-) Some things are just worth hanging on to…for such plants, seeing a ‘few’ blooms is almost as good as seeing a whole vine full!

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      October 9, 2009 1:32 pm

      Jan, I love the image of the morning glories growing on the railing; it must have been a glorious descent out of the house each morning. For someone like me who mostly grows perennials and considers a $5 plant a bargain, all that beauty from a $1.25 packet of seed is a marvel! Thanks for reminding me to enjoy my Maine morning glories for the beauty they bring me here instead of comparing them to the way they grow in my PA garden. Just this morning, my friend Mike was here to clean the chimney and commented on the beautiful morning glory blooms.

  2. October 9, 2009 1:09 pm

    It is the most fantastic blue!! And I’m so glad it bloomed for you.

  3. October 9, 2009 2:40 pm

    Hi Jean. Good luck with the frost. I can’t imagine the challenges of short season gardening.
    Scott

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      October 9, 2009 8:34 pm

      It is a different gardening world. Aren’t you in something like zone 10 down there in Key West? You could grow morning glory vines as perennials if you wanted! Of course, in that tropical climate, you have so many more choices that they probably seem like less of a marvel.

  4. October 9, 2009 2:59 pm

    It is harder for those of us who had to battle wild morning glories to get excited about them, but yours are a beautiful shade of blue. I remember as a child pinching the buds to make them pop, and nobody made me stop. I’d have been pinched to make me pop if it had been one of Mama’s prize flowers.

    One year, morning glories covered the huge shrubs along the lot line behind a local funeral home here, turning a green hedge into heavenly blue.

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      October 9, 2009 3:08 pm

      It’s true; in my Gettysburg garden, even as I glory in my heavenly blue morning glories on the fence, I curse their wild cousins, the bindweed that has pretty pink flowers but is impossibly invasive. Is it just my imagination, or are the cultivated morning glories better behaved? (Maybe I’m just more tolerant of them because they’re growing where I want them and because I love their blue so much.)

  5. October 10, 2009 4:24 am

    Hello Jean and thank you for this post. Morning Glory is a plant from my childhood. I used to have nice, strong vines in my previous garden in Missouri. but don’t have any luck here, in the NW. Your story encourages me to try again. Happy gardening and blogging to you!

  6. October 11, 2009 11:16 am

    My daughter grows morning glories along the chicken yard fence, and they didn’t bloom as floriferously as last year. For those of us in colder climates, they are very weather dependent, I think. You will just have good years and bad years, so don’t let a bad year make you give up!

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      October 11, 2009 12:25 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement, Kathy.

  7. October 12, 2009 6:35 am

    What a beautiful blue color your morning glories have! I too am a lover of mgs. They make me feel happy. Down here, in s.e. FL I have a mg that is perennial and hard to get rid of if it’s in an area where you don’t want it. But, I love it’s blooms, more on the purple side. I had some beautiful reddish/purple ones for a few years and really loved them. They were grown from seeds from our dear aunt who lives in upstate NY. I hope you have more success next year in Maine. Can you start the seeds indoors to give you a head start?

    FlowerLady

  8. Lorie permalink
    May 18, 2016 6:28 pm

    How do you keep the squirrels from digging the seeds up? I put used kitty litter on mine and hope that deters them

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