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Two Tobaccos

Nicotiana

On Tuesday, my friend Le Flaneur and I went to the New York Botanic Garden in the Bronx to see the exhibit Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers. Two large rooms in the Enid Haupt Conservatory were given over to an interpretation of Emily Dickinson’s garden at The Homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts, which is only about 45 miles from us in Heath. There were wonderful plantings of the flowers that grew in her garden, some of which inspired her poetry. The exhibit will run until June 13. It has everything, flowers, veggies, poetry and history.

I didn’t see any poetry about red nicotiana, but I can understand why Emily and other gardeners plant it. In our climate we treat it as an annual, but the sweet fragrance is all the reason one needs to include this somewhat leggy, sprawly plant.  Nicotiana, sometimes called flowering tobacco, is related to the kind of tobacco that you smoke, but it is also a member of the Solanaceae family which means it is related to deadly nightshade, tomatoes and eggplant.

After spending happy hours at the Emily exhibit which included A Poetry Walk that included many of her poems inspired by the garden and the natural world, and a quick tour of the Rose Garden where a few roses were just beginning to bloom, we set off for Arthur Avenue just a few blocks away. Arthur Avenue is a kind of Little Italy – good food! One of the more exotic emporiums gave space to four cigar makers, rolling tobacco leaves into very nice cigars.  I guess this store figures after a wonderful meal, the men will want a good cigar – and they want to supply that too.

Tobacco is native to the New World and was smoked only on ceremonial occasions. When Europeans learned about tobacco they quickly decided that it  could be sold in their home countries and used recreationally in snuff, and for smoking.

I am not a smoker – and I prefer the sweet fragrance of flowering nicotiana.

6 comments to Two Tobaccos

  • I love nicotiana, too, but I’ve seen that, and I’ve never seen cigars being rolled so that intrigues me, too!

  • Nicotiana always has a place in my garden, it reseeds itself every year and pops up here and there. Love the fragrance and the pretty flowers, and the hummers love it too! I like the red one in your photo…

  • Let’s make that three tobaccos, Pat! I recall seeing the nicotiana, and I remember the cigar makers, but what I really enjoy is the shower gel I purchased as we walked from the Battery City parks to the beginning steps of the High Line park/esplanade. What caught my eye in the shop was the beguiling name “Tobacco Caramel” and sure enough the fragrance was evocative of two of the better things in life – not the best, mind you, but better certainly. Although I am known to abhor self-indulgence, and forbearance is my byword, I have enjoyed this imaginative use of the nicotiana’s lovely scent in combination with the aroma of crème brulée. Although taking a shower has not become quite the dessert and after-dinner cigar I might have imagined, my shower has assumed the bracing and pervasive atmosphere of a recherché humidor. After days of trekking about Manhattan with you, gazing at horticultural achievements, surely I need the restorative hot shower enveloppé dans la fumée fragrante et douce? Refreshed, I can now gaze out at my own garden and wonder, “And how will it weed itself?”

  • Hi commonweeder, i just followed your comment from Jean’s. I did not know that tobacco has a red flowered species, just saw the yellow ones. What is the similarity of the flowers fragrance with the smell of processed dried tobacco? thanks.

  • I usually plant the ‘Only the Lonely’ large white nicotiana which makes quite a statement in the garden. The red is quite pretty. I’ll be the hummingbirds love it.

  • Pat

    Tinky – It was amazing to see those gentlemen concentrating on their work. Nimble fingers and sharp knives.
    Ellen – I hadn’t realized that nicotiana self seeded so readily.
    Flaneur – I forgot about Tobacco and Caramel. I assumed the tobacco was flowery, not smoky.
    Andrea – Fortunately nicotiana has a sweet fragrance, nothing like smoking tobacco.
    Layanee – Thanks for the name of a specific nicotiana. I have never grown it.

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