Thursday, October 23, 2008

Heaven Scent

The home my mom and her husband/gardening buddy (M&M) bought in Wisconsin had been previously owned by an avid gardener. Their first spring in their new home, about 15 years ago, a few plants popped up in the garden that mystified and delighted us. It was something I'd never seen or heard or before.

The large, distinctive, sweet-smelling blooms were gorgeous. Mom asked me if I knew what it was. I didn't, but was determined to find out. So I did some research and discovered they were brugmansias, plants that are definitely not hardy in M&M's zone 4 garden. They must have self-seeded from the previous year.

They didn't reseed the following year, and since then there have been no more brugmansia volunteers in their garden. Since first discovering them in M&M's garden, I've lusted after these beautiful, fragrant blooming plants. In all the years since, I'd never seen a brugmansia for sale in any of the nurseries around here, although I'd seen them in mail order catalogs. I never got one, as all parts of brugmansias are poisonous. Since our plant-eating cats have left home with my daughters as they struck out on their own after college, it's now safe to overwinter these tender plants inside.
Last year at the end of the season at the nursery, a coworker brought in two brugmansias she'd bought in the spring. She didn't want to overwinter them inside, and rather than let them die she brought them to work to give away. I was lucky enough to be able to take one of them home in exchange for some cuttings Mom & Pop, the nursery owners propagated to sell this year. Realizing how easy they were to start from cuttings, I started a new one myself in case the mother plant didn't make it over the winter in our basement greenhouse.

Both plants made it through the winter, and an un-variegated seedling or sucker had also grown in the pot of the mother plant. This spring I removed the sucker and put it in its own container. I tried all three plants in the sunniest part of our shady back yard garden hoping they'd bloom. They never did. Although I enjoyed the beautiful foliage, I wanted those huge, fragrant blooms! In early September I moved the brugs to our sunny front yard. A few weeks later they were budding. Pulling into the driveway after our weekend trip to Mom's recently, I was delighted to see the buds had opened. The brugs are now safely ensconced inside. I just couldn't put these blooming beauties in the basement! They're in sunny windows in our living room now. Every evening as the sun goes down, their gorgeous scent intensifies. They perfume the entire house all evening, and in the morning until the sun comes up. Every time I pass by the living room, I'm compelled to go in there and breathe deeply. Commonly known as Angel's trumpets for the shape of their blooms, brugmansias are also aptly named for their heavenly scent!


  1. Haven't hear of these before - but aren't they lovely!

    Beautiful but poisonous plants can be such a bind. There are several flowers I would like to plant on the small bit of garden at the front of my house to make it more welcoming as visitors arrive (and me!) but which are poisonous either in whole or in part. But the trouble (and joy!) with our street is that there are so many children, right from very small ones, who play outside . . . well, can't have dead toddlers littering the pavements!

    (Not to mention cats!)


  2. Anonymous9:16 AM

    What a gorgeous plant, as much for that lovely foliage as for those gorgeous blooms!

  3. They are so stunning but yes, not hardy here in Minnesota. I can almost smell them sitting here as you wrote about them, how wonderful is that :)

  4. They're also known as Datura over here and were often used for their hallucogenic properties by ancient tribes. They're too tender for the UK winters too, but worth growing for their heavenly scent all the same.

  5. A stunning flowering plant! With limited space on my sunporch for vacationing plants, I scratch my head this time of year wondering what to keep and give away. After 30 years, Esmeralda, my stunning clivia miniata, was adopted by my son/wife so I still have visiting privileges!

  6. Anonymous10:05 AM

    What a glorious plant to have in your living room. Their blossoms & scent are heavenly. :)

  7. Linda .. you have me captivated by your description of these unusual plants .. I have read other blogs that say the scent is heavenly as well. I would only be able to have them as an annual ( my girls would be after them all the time if inside .. and no garage .. sigh !) I'm also interested in Castor bean plants for their fantastic foliage .. same case with these though .. very toxic .. so just an annual for me as well.
    But .. you have me THINKING of next year and having these on the deck ! Thanks !

  8. They are so pretty. I can smell them all the way down here:)

  9. Oh, as I was reading that, I kept thinking "aren't those angel's trumpets like my neighbors?" Cause I'm not up on the technical names! She gave me two small ones. Don't know when they'll bloom. But I go over and take pics of hers.

  10. My brugmansia took a couple of years to bloom and dies close to the ground over winter here in Austin but so far has been root hardy. You are so right, Linda! They do have a great smell!

    Austin garden blogger Lori grows an annual form of datura that smell great and look like Angel's trumpets, but you don't save the save the seeds.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  11. Hi Lucy, I must admit, I'm smitten with them!

    I had to laugh at the vision of dead toddlers and cats littering the pavements! I know, it's not really funny, but sometimes I do have a sick sense of humor!

    Our street is very quiet - we have families with older kids on our street, and quite a few retired folks and people around our age. There are a couple of young children across the street, but there's no one to play with over here.

    Hi Nancy, I do really love the variegated foliage. They are actually about three different colors of green, plus a creamy-white edge. They're pretty plants even when not in bloom.

    Hi Kathi, fantastic! Glad you enjoyed their heavenly scent!

    Hi VP, here in the US we have both brugmansias and daturas. Brugs have pendulous blooms, and daturas are more upward-facing. Both are beautiful, and both are toxic and hallucinogenic. The daturas here do have a lovely fragrance at night too, but not as strong as the brugs have. I've read that the daturas are strictly annuals, but I've had mine for two years now. It's quite a bit smaller than the brugs though. My datura has deep purple, almost black stems, and double blooms. I understand there are places in the southern US where daturas grow like weeds!

    Hi Joey, oooh, that was quite a sacrifice, giving up your clivia, especially one you loved enough to name! It's good you still get to visit her!

    Hi Racquel, I sure am enjoying having them in the living room instead of in the basement! I see you've got colocasias in your yard - I'm jealous that you can overwinter them outside! Mine's in the basement - they'd never make it through our zone 5 winters.

    Hi Joy, I think you'd love them, but definitely not inside with the girls! I've never tried castor bean plants, but they do have wonderful foliage, especially the purple ones!

    Hi Tina, now's the time of evening when they smell really heavenly! I'm in the office, and the living room's on the other side of the office wall, but I can smell those trumpets as if they were right here in the same room with me!

    Hi Brenda, they like sun, lots of water, and mine seem to like lots of organic fertilizer too. They seem to be pretty heavy feeders, at least up here in the frozen tundra. ;) I think besides moving them into more sun, feeding them helped get them blooming too. Even the one I started from a small cutting last fall bloomed after feeding it. I hope you'll be seeing buds on yours soon!

    Hi Annie, aren't they wonderful! Inside or outside they smell fabulous, but inside the potency of the scent is amazing! I'm envious that you can keep yours outside all year. I imagine they grow even better in the ground than in a container.

    I checked out Lori's daturas, and they're gorgeous too. I have one as well, and I'm a bit surprised it lasted over the winter inside and bloomed again this summer, as I know they're truly annuals. I was hoping to see a seed pod on mine, but alas, no luck. There were some small buds still on it, but since it's come inside, one by one they seem to be falling off before opening. There are only two buds left, and I have my fingers crossed they'll bloom. My optimism about that has faded though, in direct proportion to the number of buds I've found on the floor.

  12. They are beautiful! I do love them and having a plant eating cat makes it difficult to bring them inside. Sigh. I will enjoy everyone else's plants.


  13. So glad it ended up in good hands. I've been eyeing them up for a few years as well, but basement was the main reason I didn't get any, I wouldn't condemn anyone to such darkness, never mind a beauty like Brugmansia. The other day in Botanical garden, I noticed two giant potted specimens and were surprised to see they are still outdoors (and it gets quite chilly at night), and was even more surprised to see them in divine bloom. Until I have a conservatory large enough to come to terms with my tender plants appetite, I will enjoy visiting your beautifully scented living room.

  14. They sound heavenly and look gorgeous too. I'd also enjoy jasmine. Maybe I'll get something now that I've got another room my cats aren't allowed in. It's my new plant/craft room.

  15. They are lovely - I wish I could smell them. It is such a shame that computers don't have "smelly-vision".

  16. Good morning Gail, I wouldn't have dreamed of having them before the cats decided to strike out on their own with my girls!

    I miss the kitties sometimes, but being able to overwinter the tender plants inside is a nice consolation prize.

    Good morning Violet, last year I kept them in the basement. I think they'll be happy in the sunny windows this year, though this flush of bloom will probably be the last until they go back outside next spring.

    Hi Cinj, I love Jasmine! It's amazing how those tiny blooms can have such a strong, beautiful fragrance. I have a jasmine in the basement - last year there were two, but one died over the winter. I hope I can keep the one that's left alive over the winter.

    Hi Karen, wouldn't it be awesome if someday technology advanced to the point we could enjoy fragrance like that from our computers!

  17. I have a lovely Brugsmania growing my garden. It comes up every year-it winters over beautifully in NC. I have a few pictures of it on my blog-archives posts. Take a look if you have time. The scent is wonderful!!

  18. I fell in love this year with brugmansia and I am waiting for cuttings from a friend I met in the net via blogging - he turned to be one of my neighbours :)

    Thank you for good wishes for Atomik :)
    Greetings from Poland,

  19. Hi Garden Girl,
    I just edited and rearranged my bookmarks. I'm glad I made it back to your blog! You have some beautiful photos I want to catch up on!

    I grow moonflower, a white form of datura, and this year, I grew a purple flowering one. I've read that the flowers of datura point up rather than hanging down like the brugs. I have the seeds from a yellow flowering one I asked for when I saw a plant at a garage sale from a year ago. I didn't get them planted. I may put them out this fall yet, to see if they come up in the spring. I deadheaded the purple one all summer, thinking I shouldn't grow it next year, as our grandson will be a toddler, but then decided he would never be out there unsupervised, and wish I'd have let some seeds mature.


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