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Four-O’clock (Mirabilis) is a tender perennial. Some species are grown as an ornamental while others are considered a noxious weed in its native Americas.

This plant has some amazing strategies to pass on its genes to the next generation..

It is intensely fragrant and the blooms open from late afternoon until morning. This makes them very attractive to sphynx moths, which serve as pollinators.

Flowers that have been pollinated close by 7:30 a.m. while those that have not been pollinated remain open until 11 a.m. giving the day light loving birds and bees a chance at the nectar and the plant another chance to get pollinated by concentrating pollinator visits to the as yet, unpollinated blooms.

These strategies yield a very high rate of seed formation in 65% of the flowers . Interesting to me is the fact that only one large seed is formed per flower. Seeds are highly viable and in the wild most germinate near the mother plant. Roots are tuberous and form a deep taproot, enhancing survival of the mother plant from year to year.

Four-O’clock is a nice plant for the person who only gets to spend time in the garden in the evening or for the spot in the garden where the hard working gardener is most likely to park her tired self after dark. The great smell permeates the area, especially at night. The nocturnal moths are fun to observe and hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies frequent it in the morning . One more strategy - be attractive enough to get the humans to nurture you!

The Four O'Clock is a variation on the Tea Thyme cocktail served at Beatrice & Woodsley in Denver, and the Tea Thyme is almost certainly a variation on the Earl Grey MarTEAni, invented by Audrey Saunders at the Pegu Club in New York. The original calls for an egg white, which adds a pleasant frothiness that isn't at all necessary, and omits the thyme, which I think adds a nice flavor. This version calls for stirring instead of shaking, because I find that I prefer the drink without the aeration, despite my usual adherence to the loose rule of "shake when using fruit juices". It does require a bit of advanced preparation, but once the key ingredients have been created/obtained, you can mix up vast portions of it as a punch if you so desire, as long as you keep the proportions. I usually serve it in cocktail glasses alongside fiddly hors d'oeuvres, or just before dinner. It's a cool, pleasantly sweet drink that manages to feel both sophisticated and summery.


Ingredients:
1 1/2 ounces Earl Grey Gin Infusion (recipe below)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce thyme-infused simple syrup (recipe below)

Stir over cracked ice until well chilled. Strain into cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Earl Grey Gin Infusion
Ingredients:
One liter of gin (you're infusing it, so you don't have to buy expensive stuff, inexpensive but drinkable is absolutely fine here. I tend to buy New Amsterdam, which is really inexpensive, and the citrusy flavor goes well with the bergamot. But Tanquerey would work just as well.)
1/4 cup loose leaf Earl Grey tea (conversely, don't be cheap on the tea)

Pour gin and tea into non-reactive container. Allow gin to steep at room temperature for an hour or two (You're looking for a rich, dark brown color). Gently strain infused gin back into bottle (I use cheesecloth, a wire mesh strainer and a funnel).

thyme-infused simple syrup
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
four thyme sprigs

In small pan, combine sugar and water over medium heating, stirring when water begins to simmer until sugar is dissolved. Gently crush thyme sprigs, and place them into sachet d'épices. Steep sachet in warm simple syrup for six minutes.

"Four O'Clock" is the 29th episode of the third season of The Twilight Zone, and was first broadcast in April of 1962. It stars Theodore Bikel as Oliver Crangle, a reclusive misanthrope, and also features some other character actors in minor parts.

It has been a while since I wrote one of these, and in the meantime, my own life, and the United States have changed a lot. So, before I watched this episode, I wondered if I would still be engrossed in The Twilight Zone, if Rod Serling's hokey mid-20th century morality tales would still seem relevant at all.
And oh goodness, do they. The details have changed, but this is a story about an internet troll. Before the internet. Oliver Crangle is a basement dweller who lives alone with his pet parrot and spends his time doxxing people. The word didn't exist, but the concept is there. Oliver Crangle doesn't have the internet, but he does have an apartment filled with card catalogs, where he obsessively records the evil-doings of people he doesn't like, like communists and "thieves", and then reports them to their employers. His dress code even looks like a variation on the "Alt-Right", being simultaneously dandyish and slobby. He might even have a fedora. So alone, stewing in his venom, barely interrupted by a string of visitors who try to dissuade them, he plans his revenge. (Given this week's mass shooting in Las Vegas, I had to look at people's response to his vague threats as somewhat quaint---people in 2017 would be much more alarmed at a bitter loner talking about taking revenge on the world).

Disappointingly, when the "revenge" does come, it is, in the Twilight Zone's tradition, somewhat hokey rather than frightening. The episode could have gone with many different moods, but the somewhat creepy premise was transformed into a farce by Theodore Bikel's hammy acting. But that is intentional, I believe: The Twilight Zone had many stories about the individual against society, and in some they are the hero, in some they are the villain, in some it is quite serious, and in others it is a comedy (And in one of the Twilight Zone's most famous episodes, Time Enough At Last, the loner protagonist is both hero and villain in a story that is both comedy and tragedy). Despite the episode's simple production values and somewhat hasty ending, and despite the fact that this is now 55 years old, I found myself immediately absorbed into the story.

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