Early risers can enjoy these blooms

As a child, I was intrigued by an 8-foot-tall vine with blue, funnel-shaped flowers. On sunny mornings, the flowers were wide open when I walked past them on my way to school, yet they'd be tightly closed by the time I got home. Since I'd never seen plants behave like this before, I wondered if they could actually think. After all, how else could they know the time of day?

My teacher took an interest in my discovery, too, and she identified the plants as "morning glories" (Convolvulus). She disappointed me by explaining that plants can't think. Instead, morning glories open and close in response to the amount of sunlight they receive.

My childhood memory came rushing back after I spotted some morning glories growing alongside a road early one morning.

They still interest me.

Native to the Americas and Asia, most morning glories are annuals with frost-tender vines. It's unusual, then, for them to survive a frigid winter, even when they find themselves growing in a protected place. Still, they sometimes sprout in the spring from seeds dropped during the summer.

Growing morning glories from seeds isn't that simple, as the seeds should be scratched with a file and then soaked in water for 24 hours before being sowed indoors several weeks before the last spring frost. So I feel fortunate to have seen some growing wild.

Morning-glory vines are excellent climbers. In fact, many varieties will climb 8 to 10 feet in just two months, if given a trellis, tree or wall to lean on that's in full sun and in soil that drains freely.

Flaunting green, 5-inch, heart-shaped leaves, some morning glories have 1-inch flowers. Most varieties, though, grow flowers from 4 to 8 inches across that bloom throughout the summer in shades of red, white and blue, until they're taken by Jack Frost.

Red-flowered morning glories are particularly appealing to hummingbirds. Even so, the hummingbirds must get their nectar from morning glories soon after daybreak, as flowers close by mid-morning and stay closed for the remainder of the day.

To appreciate these pretty plants in all their glory, then, gardeners need to get up with the birds, too. But waking up early to see morning glories in full bloom is worth the effort.

This week in the garden

I found a great use for seeds I don't want. I'm using them to top off our bird feeder.

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