Gardeners behold.....the Queen of the Night
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Gardeners behold.....the Queen of the Night

THE pride of my heart and the delight of my eyes are the potted plants stuck in every nook and cranny of the garden.

Like most keen gardeners, I stroll each morning through the garden marvelling at an unexpected bloom here, a forgotten spring friend there, or anything which earned my accolade of ‘last year's star performer’.

Now I do not like cacti, but the real excitement of the past week has been the opening of Queen of the Night cactus in a lichen-covered pot in the greenhouse.

I mention it now because apart from the huge, pure white blooms that it freely produces, it has an unearthly night-time scent, the very essence of sweetness combined with an added, slight lemony undertone.

Not a hint of this powerful scent is obvious before dusk, but as the light begins to fade and while it is still pleasant enough to remain outdoors, the scent from Selenicerus grandiflora begins to release itself from stunning, trumpet blooms.

These can be as much as a foot in length and six to eight inches wide at each flared end, filling the air in every direction, freshening, and perfuming everything within its path.

The beauty of Queen of the Night is that the scent is released automatically as dusk approaches and drawing close or bending to experience this is not necessary.

The likes of rosemary, lemon verbena, and lavender may be perfectly happy growing in pots in a limited space, but they must be positioned carefully (near to garden seats and tables) where those seated can touch them easily, in the process releasing all their different scents to the night air.

Out of bloom, Queen of the Night looks for all the world like any variety of Schlumbergera (Christmas cactus and Easter cactus are in this family) and is just as easy to propagate.

Their thick, slender, ribbed segments are easily separated from the parent.

Simply remove a few of the smaller segments and insert their bottom two inches into a pot containing a sandy compost. Water once and wait until rooted.

Any time between June and late summer will suit propagation but do keep the segments shaded from full sun until new growth becomes evident.

A bright windowsill, one facing east or west would be ideal.

Garden centres who sell cacti should be able to supply you with a Queen of the Night from stock.