In the evening, as it opens, it’s one of the sweetest and most gentle scents, a combination of jasmine and orange blossom and gardenia, blended gently with its own mellowing agent. In the morning, it smells faintly of rubber balloon.
I’m a little bit of a sucker for the nicotiana genus, and I also have a weakness for fragrant plants. Add to that that I like carrying on heirloom plants, and you’ll have the sum of why I chose to order ‘Cranberry Isle’, an heirloom flowering tobacco from Select Seeds. I received on of their typically bouncingly healthful plants which has since boomed several sizes larger.
Marilyn Barlow, founder of Select Seeds, was kind enough to answer my email asking for more on the origins of this “new” heirloom introduction (actually, re-introduction). But this plant may be a mystery wrapped inside an enigma surrounded by a riddle, because the only information Ms. Barlow has is that Cranberry Isle came from an old garden in Maine, and was rumored to have come from an actual, land-and-sea Cranberry Isle.
Cranberry Isle is a hybrid of Nicotiana. sanderae and Nicotiana. forgetiana. When I saw this info on a garden list, I wondered at first if N. forgetiana was a joke; background information is often lost and forgotten, especially with heirlooms. So far I haven’t been able to find out how old it is (I haven’t been able to find out where its parents come from, either. Very worrying.).
Until I looked it up, I thought one of the parents might be Nicotiana alata, as the flowers look so much like jasmine tobacco. To my nose’s memory (sounds like a beginner piano piece), the smell of Nicotiana alata is different; more straight-ahead, piercingly sweet, not the gently rounded bouquet Cranberry Isle has.
The backs of my Cranberry Isle’s flowers are rose, while the insides open white (with perhaps the slightest pink tinge; it’s hard to see in the dusk), but by morning have turned pale blush pink. I haven’t gotten the multicolor effect promised in the seed catalogue, but perhaps that’s something that comes with time. Or varies from plant to plant.
While ravaged by earwigs (one of the few bugs that isn’t put off by tobacco’s insecticidal powers), this flowering tobacco gamely kept growing. It started blooming about a month after I’d received it in its tiny mailer pot, and I can expect it to go awhile. I don’t know how long, because I can’t find that information anywhere. I’ll just have to research the old-fashioned way: wait and see for myself. Or get info from other gardeners who have grown it – maybe that’s you?