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Monday, June 17, 2019
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Four O'Clocks

     "Mirabilis Jalapa, or four o'clock flower, is the most commonly grown ornamental species of Mirabilis plant and is available in a range of colors.  Mirabilis in Latin means wonderful and Jalapa (or Xalapa) is the state capital of Veracruz in Mexico.  Mirabilis Jalapa was cultivated by the Aztecs for medicinal and ornamental purposes." (Wikipedia). 
     My childhood home was located in what is now called “Old Louisville”. The house was a Victorian two-story structure that was built in the late 19th century. It was frame and had no central air or heat. The result was a cool inside climate in the summer and bitter cold in the winter. The house belonged to my paternal aunt who passed away when I was about five years old. My parents purchased the declining home from her estate.
     My recollection of this house is that it sat in the middle of a small "postage stamp" sized lot. Because the property was small, it had almost no flowers planted around the front yard and just a few planted in the back yard.  However, my mother did grow Marigolds and Zinnias, because she always enjoyed having cut flowers on her kitchen table. I think the reason for this was because my maternal grandmother, Ivy Keltner, always kept flowers to cut and bring into her house.
     In fact, I believe my own love for flowers began with my Grandma Keltner who kept many flowers growing around her house. Not only were there flowers in the yard, but she also grew them between the various outbuildings on the farm to beautify her country home and property.  
     Grandma Keltner's flowers were the “old fashioned“ kind that one might see 50 years ago, and most of them were of the blooming type which one would find in a "cutting garden" providing her with stems and blossoms that could be brought into the house for arrangements. Her favorite flower was an Angel Wing Begonia.
       But, there is another flower I remember from my early childhood that wasn't grown to be cut and brought inside...the Four O'clock. Named for its predictable late afternoon blossom, the Four O'clock would always be at its zenith at about four each afternoon. The flowers were sweetly fragrant and stayed in bloom throughout the night only to wilt and fade the following morning. However, like clock-work, each day in the late afternoon a new set of blossoms would open. I have fond memories of these flowers.  They were easy  to grow since they would reseed themselves each growing season.  In fact, once the seeds were in the ground, we could depend on them to  come back each year without fail.
     A couple of years ago, I saw packages of these seeds at Rural King. I  bought the seeds, almost thoughtlessly dropped them in a flower bed in my garden and forgot about them.  Then one day, I noticed a familiar plant coming up in the flower bed which I recognized from my youth as Four O'Clocks.  I pulled a few weeds away and generally ignored them otherwise...that is until I began to see those familiar blue, red and yellow blossoms opening faithfully each afternoon around 4 PM. My dependable little Four O'Clocks were back.
     Today I walked in the garden once more. And, yes, there were the Four O'Clocks.  The reliable little flowers of my youth are now the faithful flowers of my senior years...a gentle reminder of a persistent plant that renews itself each year and blossoms each afternoon as the day comes to an end.