When I first bought my current house the only deciduous tree in the garden was a fairly young flowering cherry, Prunus ‘Amanogawa’. Over the years it’s made an upright column about 10 metre / 33ft tall. For a few brief weeks in late April it’s a pillar of pink tinged white blossom. For the rest of the growing season it’s purely background greenery, culminating in a desultory effort at autumn colour before the leaves drop to leave bare winter branches. It provides height, a small amount of shade – but not much else in terms of its own intrinsic interest.
But what it does provide is a climbing and support frame. At the moment it has two climbers just beginning their annual advance into the higher branches. Passiflora caerulea – one of the hardiest of the passion flowers - now has inch thick trunks which have survived two harsh winters unscathed. I’ve lost the top growth – in milder years it’s been semi evergreen – but new shoots are already advancing from the permanent framework that has lodged itself against the multiple upright trunks of the flowering cherry. By June it will have spread a mass of 3-5 lobed, dark green leaves through the tree canopy and – if previous years are anything to go by - will begin to produce vertical trails from the higher reaches.
By July it will begin to flower. Each of the gorgeously ornate flowers only lasts about three days but are produced so freely that there is colour and beauty until well into the Autumn. Could you resist this? I can’t.
The second climber (at the moment – I do have other plans) is Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’, which has crept in from a shed wall. This is evergreen with me – in colder climates it would defoliate when the weather got too harsh – and notable for its long flowering period. All the books say it’s winter flowering. If that’s the classic definition of the English Winter which ends in June and restarts in August then they’ve got it just about right. In my garden I get a flowering lull between April and June – and then it starts again and does flower all the way through the winter.
|Clematis cirrhosa 'Freckles'|
A couple of years ago I had some faded Guzmania bromeliads; houseplants that had finished flowering. A bit of wire, a bit of wrapping in hanging basket liner and they were attached to the trunk of the cherry at about eye level. It was an experiment – but it worked. I didn’t have the flower spike and flowers – but I had an interesting effect from the foliage which assumed far brighter colours in the open air. I’ll be repeating the experiment this year – and maybe, just maybe, I’ll try a stag horn fern, Platycerium bifurcatum as an experiment on the shady side of the trunks. I'll have to bring it in for the winter, a small price to pay if I can enhance the sub tropical effect I strive for in my summer garden.
|Guzmania in my cherry tree|