Unusual vines

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Petrea volubilis in the garden of Anne Prescott, Sydney

My star jasmine vine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) continues to delight, creating a curtained room of our back verandah. A recent visit to a friend allowed me to see some other lovely warm-climate climbers in bloom at the moment, several of which are quite unusual but grow well in Sydney gardens. One was Petrea volubilis, sometimes called purple wreath, a delightful woody-stemmed evergreen creeper. It has its most spectacular display in early spring, but reblooms now with another significant flush. It has trusses of simple violet flowers held within cross-shaped lilac calyces, which persist long after the flowers have fallen, prolonging the show. It has curious sandpapery evergreen foliage and grows well against a pillar or across the edge of a verandah roof. It needs sun and good soil to be seen at its best, but seems to cope quite well with dry times. It can grow to 6m or more, but it can be controlled by cutting it back after flowering has finished. It has its origins in Mexico and South America.

Bauhinia corymbosa in the garden of Anne Prescott, Sydney

Another beautiful and rare vine I saw that day was a climbing form of Bauhinia, called Bauhinia corymbosa syn. scandens (ht 4m), which originates in Southern China. This has a profusion of clusters of exquisite pink flowers with prominent pinkish-red stamens emerging from buds of the same colour as the stamens. It has the typical Bauhinia foliage, with evergreen folded 'twin' leaves like little butterflies. The specimen I saw grows along a low fence and is a mass of bloom at the moment. It seems to thrive in quite a hard, sunny, dry position.

Maurandya barclayana in the garden of Anne Prescott, Sydney

A soft creeper that grows easily from seed and which is coming into bloom now and will continue for many months is Maurandya barclayana (syn. Asarina barclayana) and this was scrambling on another fence. There are purple, white and pink forms of this dainty vine, which comes from Mexico. Its membership of the Scrophulariaceae family can be seen in the snapdragon faces of its flowers. The leaves are small and triangular and the leaf stalks act as tendrils. It can grow to 2 - 5m in height. It is grown as an annual in cold climates. A related Mexican vine, sometimes called the creeping gloxinia, is Lophospermum erubescens (ht 3m), with larger rose-pink flowers in summer and autumn, held amongst sticky leaves. It used to be seen more commonly than it is these days.

Passiflora Amethyst

In my own garden, an unusual passionflower (which I think is Passiflora 'Amethyst', syn. 'Lavender Lady') is just starting its long period of bloom. Acquired as a suckering piece several years ago, it climbs via tendrils up a pergola post every year and rambles across the latticed roof of a nearby gazebo, to a height of around 4m or more. The flowers are large versions of those of the edible passionfruit, but coloured in incandescent shades of blue and purple. When I first saw it, it was floating in a bowl with two Clematis flowers, and I mistook it for a Clematis, as many people do when they encounter it in my garden. I fell in love with it instantly and was most grateful to receive a suckering piece from the gardener who grew it, along with a veiled warning that along the lines of, 'It spreads everywhere!' It is true that the plant does send out suckers, but these are easy to pull up (and there is no shortage of people who want to have one) and so far, I haven't had a problem with it. I cut it back to within 60cm of the ground each year in late winter. It enjoys a sunny spot. Most of the passionflowers are native to tropical South America. This one was apparently found in a Brazilian garden.

Fuchsia magellanica var. macrostema

Another unusual climber I acquired earlier in the year remains in its pot as I am a little terrified of letting it loose in the garden, having heard it can go berserk. It was said to be a scrambling form of Fuchsia, called Fuchsia magellanica var. macrostema, with a simple pendulous red and purple flower. I am not sure if it is even regarded as a climber or is just a very tall, sprawling shrub. A lusty specimen grew over the chook house at the erstwhile Belrose Nursery. I think I have finally found a spot where it can be allowed to have its head, so stay posted for developments!