Brava Brugmansia!

Just the long summer nights begin to wane and the fall light begins to filter through the leave, the Conservatory displays a magnificent and exotic treat for both the visual and olfactory senses.

Those who enter the Fern and Bromeliad houses can’t help but be hit by the intoxicating fragrance of the stunning Brugmansia or Angel’s Trumpets as they unfurl.

Brugmansia are part of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family and have large, trumpet-shaped corolla flowers, Brugmansias are long-lived, woody plants that can grow into shrubs or trees up to 26 feet.

All Brugmansia are from South America and inhabit different areas from tropical coastal regions to the mountainous regions of the Andeas. There are seven species, which are broken down into two natural genetically, isolated groups. The Brugmansia section, causally called the warm group is comprised of B. aurea, B. insignis, B. suaveolens, B.versicolor and the hybrid x Candida. The second section Sphaerocarpium, causally called the cool group, consists of B. arborea, B. sanguinea, B. vulcaniola and the hybrid x Flava. From these species plant breeders from around the globe have created hundreds of cultivars, creating plants with single, double and those called “double and some” corolla blooms.

Brugmansia ProductiAlthough Brugmansia are not hardy in the Pacific Northwest, regional gardeners grow Angel’s Trumpets outside either as annuals or wintering them over in a protected structure to grow as perennials.  Angel’s Trumpets can be grown in the ground during our warm season or as large container plants, often displayed on decks and in glass houses.  Brugmansia have truly spectacular, pendulous flowers that are fragrant in the evening, and can bloom in great numbers on a single, healthy plant. Although these plants are known to gardeners in this area, few cultivars are available in local nurseries. A collection of 23 different cultivars and species are cultivated in the Volunteer Park Conservatory’s production houses. They are rotated into the displays of the Conservatory as they come into bloom.

Be sure not to miss this ever-popular crowd pleaser, located throughout the Conservatory’s Bromeliad and Fern Houses throughout August and September. For the most fragrant experience, try to arrive closer to the end of the day, around 3:30.

(Excerpts of this post by Jeanne Schollmeyer, former Conservatory Senior Gardener)

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