HERE AT A GARDEN FOR THE HOUSE, certain plants withhold their perfumes until the time is “just right.” Nicotiana, for instance, won’t utter a sweet word until the sun has set, while lavender, scented-leaved geraniums, and certain roses require the midday blaze to freely release their essential oils. Morning, however, is when the unusual “Chocolate Flower” makes itself known:
From dawn until noon this Berlandiera lyrata emits the distinct air of cocoa-powder; this I cherish while sipping coffee in the Serpentine Garden, where the plant grows. The scent recalls dark, unadulterated baker’s chocolate.
Distinctive too is lyrata’s daisy-like flowers. Sunshine-yellow petals, one inch in diameter, surround a green eye that is dotted with copper-colored stamens. It is the stamens that contain the scent. Undersides of petals are brushed with red, giving blossoms a decidedly Mexican appearance.
Berlandiera is easy enough to grow. In January, winter-sow seeds in a milk-jug, or direct-sow in the garden anytime during July or August. This South-American tourist thrives in my Northeastern, zone 5-B garden in full sun and rather poor, dry soil. Only during times of prolonged drought does it demand a deep soaking. Remove faded flowers to discourage reseeding.
If you are a weekend gardener, or if you long for fuss-free plants, the chocolate flower is probably for you. Its two-foot frame looks well against a tall background of Buddleja or Witch Hazel — two other hardies which require virtually no care.
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