A late bloomer

Beech Grove resident keeps a 50-year tradition alive

By Sherri Coner

“Fifty years later, I’ve got a moonflower blooming just like my grandma’s,” Hilda Bray said of the heirloom which began with her late grandmother, Elizabeth (Betty) Lucille Holderfield.

“It’s great big, the ugliest plant you will ever see,” this Beech Grove resident said with a laugh. “But the blooms, these things are super fragrant.”

When their grandmother died, Bray discovered that her brother had actually taken care of grandma’s beloved moonflower.

“He wanted to keep it going,” Bray said. “But when I looked at what he had, all I saw was a couple of Charlie Brown looking sticks.”

Obviously, Bray’s sibling knew exactly what he was doing. Moonflowers are hardy annuals.

They can grow up to 15 feet high and 6 feet wide.

Also, this plant is a rare cactus flower with 6 inch wide, trumpet-shaped blooms.

Bray recalled reminiscing with her brother about family stories involving grandma’s moonflower, “like how everybody was outside looking at it when it bloomed,” she said.

Clipping of Hilda Bray’s grandmother and her beloved moonflower, featured in the newspaper more than 50 years ago. (Submitted image)

Through the years, Bray has been very generous about sharing her beloved plant.

“I have riddled Perry Meridian with starts for anyone who wants them,” she said with a giggle.

Bray makes sure moonflower enthusiasts understand a few things, though.

Even if flower-loving green thumbs are in love with spring blooms lasting through early fall, they must understand that a moonflower will not pretty their landscape in the way they might expect.

A moonflower is persnickety.

First, it is important to know that it only shares blooms between August and October.

And second, if you truly want to enjoy the blooms, it helps to be a night owl.

A moonflower comes by its name in a mysteriously special way.

Moonflower at night. (Submitted image)

“It opens up at dusk. It closes up at dawn. And that’s that,” Bray said of the flowers. “And you only see one bloom one night.”

Bray knows her own moonflower so well that she can now anticipate when blooms will appear.

“From the night you see a bud, it is approximately two weeks until it blooms,” she said. “I also know the night it will bloom. And when you see the bloom, you don’t want to go to bed.”

In the center of a blooming moonflower, there’s another special gift.

“It looks like the star above the manger,” Bray said.

Now that October is leaving, Bray and her husband, Jessie will soon conduct their annual labor of moonflower love.

“I have to cut 10 to 15 pounds off of it so we can get it through the door,” she said. “I have to keep mine in the basement for the winter or it would take up our whole house.”

Beech Grove resident Hilda Bray celebrates 50 years with her heirloom moonflower, which belonged to her late grandmother. (Photos by Beth Slightom)