About fifteen years ago a listener, who's now become a good friend, sent me some seeds from his garden. The seeds came from plants that are descended from seeds his grandfather brought over from Italy.

I had never heard of these plants before, but I decided to give them a try.

Dennis Malloy photo
Dennis Malloy photo

They're called Bella di Notte, which means "beauty of the night" in Italian. They are also called Mirabilis Jalapa or the Four O'clock Flower.

They are native to South and Central America and made their way to Europe in 1525. They open up around 4 in the afternoon and the fragrance is amazing. It's like the smell of a subtle expensive perfume and lasts well into the night.

When they're hit by a gentle breeze the whole backyard smells amazing. If you still find them bloomed early the next day, you won't smell a thing. New flowers will bloom later that day and repeat the magic.

On a trip to Sicily in 2010 we spotted them growing everywhere, even in the cracks of the sidewalk.

They do best in tropical climates and do their best here in the month of August. They'll pop up out of the ground in mid spring and start to bloom by late July.

I found other colors, yellow spotted with pink, in Sicily and brought them back to plant, but the fragrance wasn't as strong.

Dennis Malloy photo
Dennis Malloy photo

You can find the seeds online. If you put them in pots or in the ground, they tend to come back every year.

You can collect the seeds as they fall or pick them off the plant and plant them in other pots or parts of your yard. Maybe if everyone plants them here, we can end those jokes about how New Jersey smells.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy. Any opinions expressed are Dennis Malloy's own.

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