A vintage garden: 8 nostalgic flowers to revisit

In Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play “Our Town”, heliotrope blossoms connect two groups of figures who come together to inhale their intoxicating scent in the moonlight. Heliotropes, then common, are, indeed, wonderfully fragrant. Yet somehow they fell out of favor in American gardens.

Many staples from the Victorian era through the 1950s have been replaced by hybrids and compact bedding plants, many of which lack the charm, aroma and simple nostalgia of their predecessors.

Here are eight vintage garden flowers worth revisiting:

Four o’clock (Mirabilis japala, Mirabilis multiflora)

The fragrant white, red, pink, purple, yellow, or bicolor trumpet-shaped flowers open daily in the late afternoon and bloom from spring to frost in full or partial sun. The plants are low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and perennial in zones 8 to 10. Treat as annuals elsewhere, though they self-seed easily. Their sweet, lemony scent and shape attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Daisy-like flowers bloom profusely on lacy foliage plants from early summer until frost. Some varieties are perennials in warmer climates, while others are annuals everywhere, but all self-seeded, ensuring repeat performance in most gardens for years to come. Plant them in full sun, except in the southernmost areas, where they will appreciate some shade. Available in yellow, pink, orange, red, purple, white and brown.

Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus)

Clusters of dainty, ruffled pink, purple, red, white or bicolor flowers bloom on annual vines in spring and early summer. Sweet peas perfume the air with a scent reminiscent of grapes. Plant in full sun in northern areas but provide some afternoon shade in the south.

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