Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Monday, December 03, 2007

An exotic subtropical beauty producing pendulous racemes of flowers

After a scorching week in the Wairarapa, followed by another with a shallow promise of rain by Friday, I took to my hose. My primary targets were recently planted specimens, mostly climbers.
Of these two were thunbergias, Thunbergia mysorensis, and T. grandiflora ‘Alba’. The genus of thunbergia is quite large containing some 100 species and named for Dr. Karl Pehr Thunberg, 1743 -1822. He was a traveller in Batavia and Japan, afterwards Professor of Botany at Uppsala Sweden; so my ‘Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, 1956 edition tells me. Would that I could afford the latest edition, not republished until the early 1990s, but mine is still a very dependable dictionary in four volumes. Back to the thunbergias, There is a species lending itself to my garden almost in the manner of a weed, black-eyed Susan, T. alata. The flower is easily recognised by the bright orange petals centred with a black spot hence the common name. I don’t mind it spreading itself around the largely as yet uncultivated parts of the garden, I have shrubs growing which will eventually block the sun from these sun loving vines and stifle it.
The first of the thungbergia I was out to water was T. mysorensis, a rather exotic subtropical beauty producing pendulous racemes of flowers. The flower emerges from russet sepals to expose horizontally held petals of yellow splashed with red. Strangely they remind me of a group of singers with their mouth agape in full chorus! This vine has been planted to climb amongst the branches of the pride of Bolivia tree, Tipuana tipu, from where the blooms will eventually dangle from above over t he path beneath.
The other Thunbergia, T. grandiflora ‘Alba’ I have only seen in photos from books on tropical gardens. Despite this I have planted one in the garden. The flowers are white, quite large and hang in racemes much as the T. mysorensis. The flowers are very similar to the Bengal clock vine T. grandiflora of which I have one slowly establishing itself over the water tank. My T. g. ‘Alba’ I anticipate launching itself into the limbs of the black wattle form where it can hang its blooms for visitors to see as they approach the house.
The other vine I watered was the bridal wreath vine, Stenphenotis floribunda. The clusters of highly scented white flowers on this twiner are prized in the floristry, mostly as the common name suggests for the wedding industry. I have seen once a specimen on the hand rail of a deck in Rocky Bay flowering prolifically. Mine will hopefully one day put itself amongst the karo, Pittosporum crassifolium. Adjacent to this I have a small bench, the perfect spot to enjoy the perfume from these small star shaped clusters.
Planting climbers I believe adds and an extra dimension to a garden, providing interest and an encouragement to lift ones gaze from one's feet.

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