Moonflowers were a late-season bonus to this year’s garden. Their mysterious, pearly presence has been a wonderful addition.

Cheryse, a dear friend and colleague, shared a bag of moonflower seeds with me in June. She saves them every year. Having never grown this plant before, I didn’t know what to expect.

“I just scatter them around, and they always grow just fine,” she advised with a smile.

With all the other garden excitement, I waited until mid-July to plant the seeds. Initially I put them in a green bucket. Those seeds were slow to sprout. In early August, I tried again; this time following Cheryse’s guidance. I scattered them in an open area where onions had recently been harvested. They all took off right away.

Moonflower plants begin with big, soft leaves the color of a shamrock. As the leaves expand and stretch, rocket-like blooms emerge. The name, moonflower, is related to the reality that they wait until nighttime to unfurl.

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My moonflowers started blooming last week. Their nocturnal charms are enthralling. These beauties open only at night, and they close in the morning. Most blooms last just a day before shriveling up and falling off the plant. While they require the light of the sun for the plant to grow, the flowers prefer the company of the moon and moths.

An early bird and sun lover by nature, my primary floral affections have been reserved for sunflowers and other bright blooming pretties. Moonflowers are expanding my palate and beckoning me to create space in my imagination for the unexpected.

A favorite spring and summer routine has been to wake with the sun and check on the garden. With my moonflower companions, sunset requires a trip to the garden as well. It is then I can check to see if any flowers will be blooming that night. Since each bloom only gets a single night to stretch open, I don't want to miss out on seeing the beauty.

It’s uncertain how long our southern Minnesota growing season will be this year. On average, the first frost happens between October 1 and 10. Each morning and evening, as I visit the garden and harvest whatever produce is ready to be picked, I sense that it’s borrowed time. Precious, delicious, glorious time. So I snap extra photos and take deep, garden breaths giving thanks for everything that makes growth possible.

Cheryse described how best to save moonflower seeds. Pods will appear toward the base of the plant, and inside those pods will be seeds. I’m looking forward to harvesting them and setting them aside for next spring. They’ll nap in a paper seed packet until then, and I’ll do my best to wait for a new season of possibility to begin.

Emily Carson is a Lutheran pastor. Visit her website,